By John Barlass on
Release Date: 18th September 2020
Label: Own release
Elly Kellner may be a new name to you, but she’s a talented, highly regarded singer songwriter who has worked with the likes of Grammy winning producer Larry Klein and the great Iain Matthew’s. In 2019, she was also awarded the Tamoil Culture Prize for Arts and Literature. Iain Matthews has suggested that the only reason she isn’t more famous than she is, is because she doesn’t want to be, but he then goes on to say, “She has it all. The voice, the songs and the charm. She’s the Full Monty…” On the evidence of this charming, intriguing, quirky and pleasantly challenging set of songs, that’s a highly accurate assessment.
Elly likes to challenge established taboos with her lyrics, and she does this consistently with the five songs on this EP. It’s particularly the case during the opening track, I Could Have Made a Child, in which she first lists her female child bearing characteristics, but then goes on to indicate that she’d rather use the time she’s been given for her own enjoyment.
But it’s not all about the lyrics, fascinating though these are. The musical arrangements are excellent; sparse but effective on the first four tracks and lush and atmospheric on closing track Mountains Of Men. And the voice is one to die for, alternately rich, breathy and forceful as the song content requires. Perhaps the nearest parallel to Elly in terms of lyrical honesty and delivery is Laura Marling. Elly herself describes her musical style as ‘Melodic Sadcore’ – as good a description as any.
As for the songs, the EP starts with the aforementioned I Could Have Made A Child, a song that instantly draws in the listener. The slightly disturbing but also slightly humorous lyrics are high in the mix (so you can’t miss them?) and the backing is provided by acoustic guitar, synthesizer and light percussion – and it’s marvelous!
I Will Start Over continues with the light folky/jazzy instrumentation, which provides the backing for a combination of spoken word and dreamily sung lyrics.
Sharp Corners is another outstanding song. Written in October 2019, it’s a song about self-protection that gives warnings, via an enchanting, breathy vocal, of the dangers that await the unwary. It even warns that we should wear our masks when venturing out into the world!
Another Person is probably the folkiest song in the collection, but even here there are jazzy touches and still more ominous and challenging lyrics, but the focal point of the entire set is probably the closing track, Mountains Of Men, on which Elly is joined by a full band featuring John Lumpkin on drums, Sasha Shlain on piano and synthesizer and, most prominently, Switzerland’s Sandro Freidrich on bansuri flute. The song is tuneful and atmospheric, with a feel that is almost Andean. It’s a song that gets into your head and the eerie lyrics are given particular emphasis by the accompanying video (see below) in which a young girl is followed through locations that include a beach, a church, a bridge, a graveyard and a city palace, as her face remains expressionless throughout. Hmmm…
I thoroughly enjoyed this EP. It’s already brightened up my day and I’m sure that it will brighten yours too. Give it a listen!