Two years ago, we interviewed Keep Shelly in Athens before their performance at Rickshaw Stop. The Greek duo were then comprised of producer RΠЯ and a “petite young girl with large eyes that go from worried to incandescently happy” known as Sarah P. who told us they were just two blurry people trying to figure out who they were. Months later, Sarah announced via Twitter that she had left the group on good terms.
Today, the duo are perhaps less blurry. RΠЯ (who is now giving interviews as Notis) recruited singer Myrtha to provide vocals on their most recent and first post-Sarah P. record, Now I’m Ready, and told Paper Magazine: “When we first met, she sent me some tracks (that were) more jazz and swing stuff, so I really wanted to see if she could fit in our tunes too. When she came to our audition, she sang an earlier song of ours ‘Running Out Of You.’ That was it!”
And so [Myrtha’s voice] does fit, perhaps aided by some production effects, though we’re certain an equal number were applied to Sarah’s to create the ethereal float Notis likes to pin his material with. Now I’m Ready, released October 16 via Friends of Friends, keeps the Shelly sound in an electronic mood slightly happier than — if you will — Crystal Castles, another electronic duo that parted ways recently.
Equally experimental but based more in organic instrumentation, relatively unaltered guitar, piano, and handclaps pierce the electronic veil constructed by the band across the record. Tracks like “Benighted,” “Nobody,” and “Now I’m Ready” remain downtempo in a dark, brooding, but softly hopeful way. The title track features singer Ocean Hope singing at a range slightly lower than Myrtha uses across Now I’m Ready to complement a slow-moving bass progression that grounds hi-hat and synth elements. Notably, the only part of the song resembling a chorus is the title lyric, which isn’t uttered until two thirds of the way through the song, when it becomes the only lyric.
This practice of eschewing conventional song structures is common across the album’s eight tracks; only two songs have distinct verse-length choruses. Now I’m Ready is a celebration of moving forward: in experimentation, it opens decidedly — like At Home (2013) did with “Time Exists Only to Betray Us” — with the pleasant tone-setting “Fractals;” falters momentarily with awkwardly-timed and pitched male vocal accompaniment in “Line 4 (Orange);” but picks up elsewhere and ends with a jazzy surprise in “Hunter.”
What’s less blurry this time, exactly? The identity of the real mastermind behind the music: Notis’s production draws from a wide variety of influences and, though it may appeal to a very specific sect of dream pop, has not failed in that end. He and Myrtha will be in the area this weekend, returning to Rickshaw Stop on November 19.
(Note: Their November 20 date at Awaken Cafe has been cancelled.)
Article by Joanna Jiang