I went into this with zero preconceptions, being unfamiliar with Conrad’s band And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, so to say I was pleasantly surprised by Conrad Keely would be an understatement. ‘Original Machines’ is his debut solo album written whilst on tour and during travels around Cambodia, and is not only highly personal but also blessed with an enviable freedom reflected in an eclectic mix of songs.
What you get is 24 stylistically diverse tracks ranging from thirty seconds to almost four minutes that shift easily between lo-fi indie, slop rock, synth pop and folky melancholia. The multiple layered instrumentation envelops the listener in a kind of otherworldliness, almost demanding introspection; it’s interesting to say the least.
Title track ‘Original Machines’ leads off with one minute of ’80s-tinged synth pop, before the indie guitars and electronic percussion of ‘Warm Insurrection’. ‘In Words of a Not So Famous Man’ reveals a little more with its folky orchestration, while the stunning ‘Inside the Cave’ is all brooding primal drum rolls and low key guitars, until a wall of noise gradually builds alongside. There’s more noise on the equally moody ‘Your Tide is Going Out’ and heavily riffed slop rocker ‘Hills of K-Town’.
Sandwiched amongst the slabs of noise and the dark undertones are plenty of acoustic guitars and lilting piano melodies, with many a song touching on feelings of displacement. There’s the beautiful melancholy of the sublime ‘All That’s Left is Land’, the haunting ‘Forbidden Stones’, as well as the strangely uplifting ‘Looking for Anchors’. There are far too many great tracks to mention here, let’s just say that there’s never a dull moment.
All told, this is a hypnotic album of considerable depth and texture, which also comes with 52 pages of original art; definitely a trip worth taking.
‘Original Machines’ by Conrad Keely is released on January 22nd on Superball Music.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)