Review: Kelpe – The Curved Line

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The Curved Line is an affirmation of Kelpe’s talent and career, occupying the space between Tycho and Jon Hopkins with a consistency which is equally impressive and detrimental.

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The Curved Line is the fifth album from Kelpe, solo electronic music project of Kel McKeown, and the second on McKeown’s own label DRUT Recordings. Taking influence from across the entire spectrum, Kelpe has solidified his place as a mainstay in the leftfield of the underground.

The album opens with ‘Doubles of Everything’, featuring a delicate piano line, in which every note is in fact doubled, atop skittering percussion. As the track evolves, the piano is replaced with a glowing synth and a satisfyingly rumbly bass line. Following track ‘Chirpsichord’ reiterates ‘Doubles Of Everything’’s mission statement: The Curved Line is a sonic playground for McKeown, a collage of electronica covering everything from house to hip-hop. The tracks on The Curved Line each serve as standalone experiments giving space for the individual elements to develop.

Despite being a patchwork of sounds and textures, The Curved Line maintains an urgency and a sense of warmth throughout. Even at its mellowest moments, the album sounds like it was designed with the nightclub in mind, likewise at its most insistent it can still be enjoyed through headphones whilst relaxing. Due to the mix and match nature of the tracks, they share commonalities in their irregularity. Arpeggiated chords run through sun-drenched analogue synths and thumping basslines throughout the record, and crackles of static and skittish vocal flourishes intermittent through many of the tracks. Ultimately, this leads to a consistency which is equally impressive and detrimental. At its best, The Curved Line plays as a complete piece rather than a selection of standalone tracks. At its worst, the tracks become indistinguishable from one another and individual motifs stand out more than their respective tracks.

Fortunately, ‘Red Caps of Waves’ and album centrepiece ‘Valerian’ break up the homogeneity of the LP. ‘Red Caps of Waves’ is one of the shorter tracks on the album, and could only be improved by being a minute or two longer. It’s a slow burner, spending the entire first half building up layers of synths over a solid beat. The track is one of the most self-contained on the album, a sole idea that has been developed to completion. ‘Valerian’ is an excellent showcase for The Curved Line, the album’s trademark analogue synths swelling and bubbling atop an animated drum beat. ‘Valerian’ is one of the most dancefloor ready tracks on the record, and paves the way for subsequent track ‘Drums for Special Effects’ to follow suit.

The Curved Line is an affirmation of Kelpe’s talent and career, occupying the space between Tycho and Jon Hopkins. The music is so sure of itself that it is free to hop between genres and avoid categorisation between nightclubs and introverted listens.

The Curved Line is out now via DRUT Recordings.

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