- James Kelly is an advocate of "automatic writing," a semi-occult practice that seeks to channel the subconscious into words on paper. The output of his black metal band Altar Of Plagues, however, felt more like mental exorcism through scream therapy. Yet for all his anguished howls and tormented riffing, the intricate layers on albums like 2011's Mammal suggested an almost obsessively ordered mind as much as one riven with inner demons.
That's what connects the music of the Irishman's former band with the first album from his electronic solo project, WIFE. At first the LP sounds disjointed and abstract, but it's clearly been constructed with meticulous attention to detail. If you look for them, there are traces of Kelly's black metal past, such as the clangourous drumming on "Salvage," or the ambient passages that recall the eerie interludes on Altar Of Plagues' last album, Teethed Glory And Injury. But overall the atmosphere is much closer to the candlelit séance of Tri Angle label-mate Forest Swords.
Another major difference is that, since Kelly doesn't sound like he's gargling bitumen this time, you can actually hear what the lyrics are about. As it turns out, they have the same themes of emotional distance as Will Saul's CLOSE project. When Kelly whispers about "filling up the space between us" on "Heart Is A Far Light," he could just as easily be singing about the record's production (handled in part by another Tri Angle associate, Bobby Krlic, AKA The Haxan Cloak) as pining for lost love. Whereas Krlic's recent knob-twiddling on The Body's I Die Here buried the listener under heavy walls of sound, here he and Kelly open things up into empty expanses slowly filled with ghostly multi-tracked voices, disquieting drones and even the odd techno pulse. With all the get-up-and-go of a death march, it's hardly dance music, but the subtle builds on drops (on tracks like "Living Joy" and "Fruit Tree") show that Kelly understands how that music works.
Yet what's most surprising about What's Between is that a man mired in both metal and experimental electronic music has created melodies and choruses you could almost sing along to. It seems that when Kelly was searching his subconscious this time, he found a surprisingly sensitive soul.
01. Like Chrome
03. Heart Is A Far Light
05. Dans Ce
06. A Nature (Shards)
07. Living Joy
08. Fruit Tree
09. Further Not Better