Delayed to show “solidarity” with record shops threatened by Covid, Kelly Lee Owens’s second album finds the banging techno DJ venturing further into the realm of electronic pop. The digitals are still on point. Arpeggi’s creepy retro-futurism recalls Boards of Canada and earlier electronic experiments in Germany in the 1970s.
But when Owens was on tour with Four Tet, Kieran Hebden urged her to stop hiding her singing voice under a bushel. Now some actual songs – such as the resolute, sad banger On, or L.I.N.E. (Love Is Not Enough) – find the Welsh musician in full coo. The sweetness is deceptive: L.I.N.E. weighs up the compromises people make in relationships; solitude, she concludes, beats warping your essence.
Owens’s is not the only voice elevating this album: Welsh legend John Cale contributes to the brooding Corner of My Sky. Alongside relationship breakdown and the death of her grandmother (the coolly arpeggiating Jeanette), climate apocalypse gets a workout too. The writing of Melt! predates the news that the Greenland ice sheet lost 1m tonnes of ice per minute last year, but its union of ominous digital bubbling and thumping dancefloor nous makes for a deadly and timely tune.