Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Kelsey Lu – Dreams

If you like spare and haunting and tortured, here’s 7 minutes of it (spoiler: we do, we do and we do).


Ian Mathers: I spent an embarrassingly long time on first listen assuming this was just an ambient intro before the ‘song’ proper kicked in (why? I listen to plenty of stuff that sounds like this, I guess the context of the Jukebox just had me primed for something less spectral, less sparely harrowing). In a way that made the song even better, the slow realization that even though I’d been expecting this to go away in favour of something more conventional or immediate I didn’t want it to. And that’s before her voice comes in, and it’s a very good voice.

Tim de Reuse: Lu spends four minutes building up an aching drone out of looped cello, and then another few hitting breathy high notes over it while a tense, two-note pluck hits half-steps below her, never resolving. The song is stripped bare in nearly every aspect — no tonal resolution, no sudden movements, no twists and turns, and even the lyrics are straightforward and full of repeats. In this way, it feels distinctly unfriendly to the listener, or at least indifferent to the listener’s presence; sitting through its full seven-and-a-half minutes is like briefly tuning in to some cosmic process that doesn’t exist for your benefit. It’s a strong effect, and Lu’s voice is drop-dead gorgeous enough that it didn’t need to be smothered with accompaniment. With all that in mind — am I missing the point if I say that the stubborn, uncompromising lack of musical content left me hungry? Was that the intended effect, even if I wish it’d maybe done something else? If it had a few more tricks up its sleeve, would that ruin its raison d’être? Not sure — but the fact that I’m having such a reaction to it at all proves it’s worth a listen, I guess!

Alfred Soto: It gets away with it: a seven-minute piece anchored by Kelsey Lu’s cello reminiscent at first of Eno’s efforts in sustained minimalism. Repeating the title to create the effect of insinuation, Lu sounds appropriately tense and nightmarish. I can’t imagine wanting to listen to it again.

Juana Giaimo: As Kelsey Lu’s piercing voice appears, we discover a new atmosphere of lonely yearnings, where the abstract gets mixed with everyday life. Her voice is strong and catches the listener’s attention, even when the melody lacks focus. But with that long introduction, “Dreams” may be too aimless and lacking content.

Jonathan Bogart: Formless, patience-testing moaning; everything, from the composed-entirely-from-fragments-of-other-songs lyric to the pendulous throb of the rhythm to the affected edge-of-the-throat phrasing, lifted from better-executed (if not any better in conception) doomy narcissist-pop that 2016 is goddamn drowning in. The one thing it had going for it, extended atonal instrumental scraping and keening, turns out to be just moody horror-trailer atmospherics rather than posing any actual challenge to Western musical conventions. Not if I see you first.

Ramzi Awn: Seven minutes sound awfully short on Kelsey Lu’s “Dreams,” a sonic ode to sitting on an Adirondack chair in the mountains. The vision behind Kelsey’s voice is searing and uncomplicated, a testament to her standards and to her understanding of a sonic industry.

Brad Shoup: I think it is a charming little tone poem about that thinkpiece classic: finding and losing yourself in a big-ass city. It starts off clear-headed and only gets foggier. Like a Steven R. Smith passage, the flute and violin drift through a hole in the ceiling; Lu’s cello — first drawn, then plucked — makes things thicker. Out of this delicate abstraction steps the boy.

Josh Winters: Vivid yet vague in its titular essence, “Dreams” finds Kelsey Lu out in the open brushing broad strokes with her mighty bow, releasing them into the air as they swirl and swarm overhead like cranes in the sky. The plodding pizzicato shakes the ground from under her feet, and it compels Lu to exorcise the emotions that have held a heavy burden on her shoulders. She’s brought to her knees from the confession of her conflicted craving, her tortured soul stretched thin between the heights of heaven and the hollows of hell. There’s deliverance to be derived from confronting such self-imposed suffering, but a single admission of one’s masochistic pleasures doesn’t necessarily set you free, especially when you find yourself coming back time and time again.

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