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September 2020 (Arlo Parks)
Review

Keep Shelly in Athens - Philokalia

More accosting and encompassing than any record Keep Shelly in Athens have released to date.
Keep Shelly in Athens - Philokalia
Published: 9:40 am, September 18, 2017
More accosting and encompassing than any record Keep Shelly in Athens have released to date.

Label: Athenian Aura Recordings
Released: 22nd September 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Conflicting features of sound and philosophy form the core of Keep Shelly in Athens' latest album, ‘Philokalia'. Despite the word ‘philokalia' meaning 'love of beauty', its narrative explores the doomed experience of a poisonous infatuation, delivered by haunting vocals, bass-driven synths and sinister lyrics. The tale of obsession in this album is far from being a thing of beauty, but the music itself certainly has its moments.

Striking dichotomies are revealed throughout, beginning with 'Leave in Silence''s sense of calm resignation. While the album's introduction comfortably demonstrates the duo's customary domain of lighter 'dream-pop', this is immediately pursued by the high-energy, highly-strung 'Marionette' - which channels Crystal Castles - and consequently shocks the album to life. The track confidently perpetuates the stance that Keep Shelly in Athens are capable of creating music which flits between the menacing and the serene. Subsequent tracks follow suit, like ‘Dark Light', which effectively combines heavy electronic bass with bursts of angelic chorus, illuminating the classical struggle between good and evil, a recurring theme throughout the LP.

Although not strictly a concept album, the title track ‘Philokalia' provides a key moment to reflect on the progressively fatalistic narrative. With extended instrumental segments buoyed by loops and synths reminiscent of 80s New Wave electro-pop, tensions rise rather than diffuse, and the album's intended philosophical significance is given a chance to simmer just below the surface.

New frontwoman Jessica Bell's resounding vocals are a vital component which contribute to the album's ominous quality. Her lyric repetitions often result in sounding wonderfully like a witch casting some kind of hex, particularly in the final track, ‘Believe'.

‘Philokalia' is distinguished by its relentless energy and vocal prevalence, making this album more accosting and encompassing than any other that Keep Shelly in Athens have released to date. Lily Beckett

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