Keep Shelly in Athens: At Home

Inconsistent in tone and patchworked together from what appears to be two distinctly different EPs,At Home highlights both a stylistic identity crisis and the limitations of the chosen vocalist.

Keep Shelly in Athens

At Home

Label: Cascine
US Release Date: 2013-09-17
UK Release Date: 2013-09-17

Shelly doesn’t exist. Let’s get that out of the way. Named after a neighborhood the Grecian duo grew up in, called Kypseli, Keep Shelly in Athens met through a mutual friend in 2010. Someone thought they were being witty, but the pun seems to have gotten lost in translation. A producer-musician, RΠЯ, needed a female vocalist to sing a handful of songs he had composed, and once they had been introduced, the group was born. I’ve been enamored with the duo’s various mini-albums and EPs, and was eagerly awaiting their upcoming full length effort. I can’t say I’m particularly smitten with the final result. Inconsistent in tone and patchworked together from what appears to be two distinctly different EPs, At Home highlights both a stylistic identity crisis and the limitations of the chosen vocalist.

Having been thrust into the foreground of the production in only one song thus far, “DIY", off their Our Own Dream EP, the strident, plaintive, baby doll coo of singer Sarah P’s voice was never terribly attractive to me. Only when it remained buried in the mix could I tolerate it. I had gathered their previous EP output into a playlist and found myself consistently pushing the forward button when she arrived front and center on that track. It appears I shall be doing that more frequently now or avoiding their subsequent recordings altogether.

For a singer who cites Nancy Sinatra and Tracey Thorne as two of her main influences, it’s interesting how she sounds absolutely nothing like them. Possessing neither the emotional depth of Thorne or the tongue-in-cheek brassiness of Sinatra, her voice more closely resembles that of former Sneaker Pimps songstress Kelli Ali, Nicola Kuperus of ADULT. or Alison Shaw of the electro band Cranes. In trying to find a comparison, I’m being unkind to Ali and Kuperus and for that I apologize. They both possess a striking instrument and present it in a much more arresting manner. While I’m aware that the appeal or distaste for each artist’s singing voice is a subjective matter, one would think from all the glowing adjectives thrown around and the unanimous online love affair with her voice, I would be in the minority for detesting it. If so, I’m happily content with staying firmly entrenched in the opposition camp.

I’ve enjoyed RΠЯ’s inventive soundscapes in the past, both in his remixes for other artists and in his own creations. The beautiful instrumentals remain, but now there seems to be confusion as to who Keep Shelly In Athens are. The chillwave and dream poppy brightness continue to impress in a handful of songs, but the remaining half sees the group submitting to a much darker sound. Menacing, abrasive, glitchy beats and electric guitars have invaded their once chimerical serenity and it’s as if the previous EP’s were released by a completely different band.

The opening cut “Time Exists Only to Betray Us” announces the arrival of a divergent beast altogether with its menacing, slap-stinging drumbeat and icy cold production. The once prominent vocal samples of previous EPs only appear on a few of the album’s tracks. Wailing male and female voices dominate the first track and the samples return in the Massive Attack-like, claustrophobic number “Higher,” with its skittering beats and indecipherable male vocal sample that wouldn’t seem far removed from a hip hop track.

“Oostende”, “Recollection”, “Flyway”, “Room 14 (I’m Fine)”, “Sails” and “Back to Kresnas Street” carry the torch from their previous EPs. It’s interesting that the first three were chosen to represent the tone of the album, as they are a far cry from the foreboding mood of the other half of the record. I can only chalk it up to false advertising. “Oostende” coats everything in a glacial, balearic, synth-coated glaze. The lyric “Get on the train to shorten the distance” returns a few times and I kept thinking that I’d rather take the circuitous, scenic route instead. It just wasn’t a very interesting train ride. “Recollection” was the first single presented and its early-‘90s throwback beat and electro-pop sheen is delightfully repeat-worthy. Dreamy, funky fourth cut “Flyway”, instantly reminded me of something off Röksopp’s debut albumMelody AM , but without the beguiling vocal delivery of Norwegian singer Anneli Drecker.

“Madmen Love” annoys until Sarah P’s vocals are processed to point where her yelps sound disarmingly similar to those of Karen O’s, but even then the song slinks by without making much of an impression. The remaining tracks are heavy on mood and light on solid songwriting. Only seventh cut “Stay Away”, commanded my attention, with its synth arpeggiations and late night train vibe. If her glottal stroke-smothered vocals were removed, the song would have been near perfect.

“Room 14 (I’m Fine)” sees her rein in the vocal nasality and submit to the sounds around her. “Knife” apes the atmosphere of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” psychedelia, but with muzzled metal guitars and absolutely no arch to the melody whatsoever. “Sails” enters chillwave territory again, yet sounds like a mediocre Asobi Seksu B-side offering. “Hover”, a live track, seems to have been tacked on the end. The crowds claps and I’m just left scratching my head.

Final track “Back to Kresnas Street” ends exactly the way opener “Time Exists Only to Betray Us” did, with an unresolved, ambiguous, dangling question mark. It’s one of the many frustrating aspects of the group’s multiple personality-laden debut. There are two completely different EPs within this album stitched together with a tenuously thin thread. One is dark, one is light and unfortunately the thread does not bind them together as a cohesive musical statement. RΠЯ should find himself a new vocalist and play to his strengths. He’s doing his talent a disservice. File this under ‘promise unfulfilled’.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.