In her first full-length outing since the deliciously conceptual Music for the DMV, Elizabeth Joan Kelly presents Farewell, Doomed Planet! Elizabeth hails from New Orleans. But her latest album takes us nowhere near such a normal and natural location.
The earth is left in atomic ruin, ruled by a pack of vicious wolves from the ground zero of self-harming nuclear disaster: Chernobyl. We blast off with Elizabeth to an unsure destiny.
Harm immediately sets a tone of melancholia. Icy piano chords join together with backward tones and melodies to form some unholy hybrid of the two. Descending piano notes melt upon the top, creating a swirling, dramatic ocean of sound. Into this ocean, Elizabeth dives forth with exposition detailing the fate of the earth that we are leaving. The destruction she details counterpoints the calm tranquility of the song perfectly. The blame for such chaos rests solely with our own species as Elizabeth repeats ‘we have done such harm’. Her voice thundering in an onslaught of distorted melody at the very end. One can’t help but feel as if they are slowly floating away from a burning earth on a sea of stars, unsure of what comes next.
Baleen Executioner begins the gradual detachment from the mournful feelings of the first song. A disjointed melody and percussion spew from strange orifices. The rhythm instilled is somewhat comical in its binary bass movements, but the strange unexplained noises echoing on the periphery unsettle the listener considerably. The noises seem to purposely homage whale sounds for a brief moment, combining with the title being in reference to the process of filter-feeding that Baleen Whales take part in. This is the first insight into Elizabeth’s depiction of the behemoth whales that we’ll be very much familiar with by the end. Vocals burst into the fray, the voice seemingly holding back an onslaught of electronic chaos. A bouncing bassline takes the song from then on. The voice Elizabeth takes on seems to be that of the whales, as they lament humanity escaping the dead planet. The movements employed in the song mirror that of the baleen feeding system. In the bursts of electronic sound, it starts to feel that we are the krill left behind after the great expulsion of waste and water.
Unusual Capsule exiles vocals entirely in favour of a sporadic electronic structure. Searing synth notes spray across us with an unpredictable bass providing a strange and unseen passage through the song. The unkempt and almost aggressive production style undertaken leads us to believe that we have left any shred of civilisation behind at this point. The textures of the track are ever-shifting, engaging and effective.
We take another longing look at the shell of Earth and a glimpse at our empty destiny in Trinity Quadrant Cantata. With a little help from Bach, Elizabeth laments in beautifully performed vocal harmonies over glacial pads. A skeletal drumbeat shifts in underneath the damning chord sequence. The melody judders along, propped up by the chattering drumbeat. The ethereal quality of the track directly contrasting the texture of the song before, leaving the listener to reason that space is an odd and unpredictable place.
Swelling pads as Whaliens starts. They slowly grow as a gentle tune is breathed through the slow-moving euphoria. Its almost as if we are looking through our port window at some great behemoth majestically floating across our vessel. The great monsters featured in the descriptions of the album are not that at all. Rather they are peaceful, omniscient beings with a grace unequalled to that of anything we saw on earth. All else is silent, save for the slow, flowing of synth tones. As the track moves past its halfway point, a slight ringing occurs, with bubbling sounds proceeding it. The feelings of solitude that are conveyed from the song succeed those of Harm or Trinity Quadrant Cantata. The track plays out for almost 7 minutes, a beautiful calculated exercise in minimalistic aesthetic.
Departure brings us back into the throng of the album. Crackling audio brings a muffled cacophony of sound. A bassline throbs, accompanied by what sounds to be some sort of helicopter. After a moment, a synth pad bursts into the forefront of the song. Elizabeth welcomes us to a new world. Though the mystic optimism that is breathed into the vocals is not shared by their contents. Elizabeth speaks of dark and tenebrous atmosphere, and unending spirals of wind. Tomita-esque chords play through large, square-wave synth tones.
Exclusion Zone Earth or All Hail, Chernobyl Wolves plays as if we were a lone individual trapped on what’s left of the earth. Elizabeth uses her voice to replicate the howling of the authoritarian beasts. Their power does seem quite intimidating, with every howl that bursts forth it seems to reach the very surface of the atmosphere, piercing its way through. The earth that we know is claimed by something other than us. In the damning bass pad that plays, we see a barren wasteland. It is devoid of us ourselves, but so full with the consequences of our actions and mistakes.
A temperamental and purely explorative programme of ‘wait and find out’ is employed as we hear Human Research Roadmap. Elizabeth plays the part of the always apprehensive human, but in the context, her worry is completely justified. How will we know if we are allergic to celestial dust? Even the percussive elements that support the song sound reserved and ambivalent. Uncertainty surrounding what’s to come peels from the track as it ends.
An elongated string plays out over Feral at Night, combined with sporadic banging of some great metal surface and a background of general discomforting sound. But, is this earth or our new home? Are we hearing the bloodthirsty work of the wolves? Or something even worse on a strange and unknown planet?
Cosmonaut Chorus begins with heavily reverbed vocals. A low buzzing sound infers that we are in transit of some kind. Elizabeth’s voice reaches to the far depths of an unfamiliar sky. Our travels and achievements are impressive, but tapered significantly by our own foolishness in the past. The vocal layering joins up together, much like the sounds did at the very start. That amalgamation of naturalistic and paranormal forming one solid entity. No lyrics, just lamenting vocal tones filled with regret and uncertainty and almost devoid of hope. Almost… some of the trills and motifs still have that human longing that we will survive.
Beau Travail brings us whole circle with an intro identical to Harm. The icy pianos are now even more effective than at the start. We as a race are completely alone with our mistakes and wrongdoing. Devoid of even Elizabeth’s expositional lyrics. Cast out into the cold of a truly unforgiving universe, where we are no longer masters of our own destiny. Where we do not wield the power to wrought the destruction we had before. But then, we are exploded into some sort of uplifting section, the chords are much more optimistic. Much less barren and devoid of hope. And with the title meaning ‘good work’, maybe this is not the end of our race?
Elizabeth’s care and detail when tackling a heavy concept is fully apparent in the new album. It is unpredictable, but incredibly entertaining. The combination of thought provoking lyrics and intense dynamic production makes it a treat for anyone willing to take a trip somewhere a little bit alien.
Listen in full here: http://elizabethjoankelly.bandcamp.com/album/farewell-doomed-planet