Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: Tri Angle
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic
The latest example of a musician's career taking a 180-degree-turn belongs to former Altar of Plagues mastermind James Kelly. His new project WIFE finds the former extreme metal-head steeped heavily in smooth electronics and adopting a soulful croon. James Blake is an obvious reference for this U.K. musician, but Kelly's vocals aren't cut to pieces, and the production is slightly more offensive than the polite blue-eyed Blake would ever allow.When the songs get really rude, WIFE recalls the work of another recovering metal musician, Justin Broadrick.
Wife’s debut is the work of James Kelly, guitarist with disbanded black metal trio Altar Of Plagues. His former band leavened their crushing attacks of noise with stretches of elegiac, dark ambience and on ‘What’s Between’ Kelly explores those ideas further – this is a dense and cryptic electronic album. Toning down his metal scream to a murmur, tracks like ‘Tongue’ and ‘A Nature (Shards)’ find Kelly marrying bleak imagery (“I crawl through black water”) to sparse drum echoes and abstract bass tones, his vocals weathered by shifting, finely textured treatments from guest producers The Haxan Cloak and Roly Porter.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Catapulting away from black metal, with its 60-a-day phlegm hack, violent terror and minigun drums, James Kelly – formerly of Altar Of Plagues – goes it solo, trying his hand at darkwave electronica that veers between the ambient chaos of Doldrums or frequent comparisons Nine Inch Nails, Burial and oOoOO. Produced by The Haxan Cloak, What's Between, the debut LP from the London-based, Ireland-born Kelly (donning his WIFE guise), slips into drastically fresh territories.
After making three albums of forward-thinking black metal with Altar of Plagues, James Kelly went in a very different direction with WIFE. He debuted the project's subtle, shadowy electronic music with the Stoic EP, a beautifully murky set of songs that, despite its release by Throwing Snow's Left Blank imprint, suggested a relationship with Tri Angle Records was inevitable. Interestingly, his first full-length for that label, What's Between, sounds less typically Tri Angle than Stoic did.
As Irish black metal aesthetes Altar of Plagues reached their career peak, it was clear that frontman James Kelly had other interests. After 2013's electronic-focused Teethed Glory and Injury, he called an end to that band's aggression and physical brutality in favor of the morose atmospherics of his bass-focused solo project WIFE; the first full-length to emerge out of Kelly's fractured electronic inclinations, What's Between, draws from the same barren palette as his past work, but it attempts to approach that darkness through uplifting synth swells and dead-eyed vocalizations rather than screeches and squalls. At his most focused, Kelly's work recalls the beat-driven bleakness of Ross Tones' Throwing Snow (whose Left_Blank label released WIFE's first missive, 2012's Stoic EP) or his new Tri Angle labelmates.
As the former frontman of Altar of Plagues, a band that were credited with finding room to roam and experiment within what was at that point a genre pretty set in its ways – they’ve often been referred to as “post-metal” and “ambient metal” – Irish musician James Kelly has always been interested in positioning himself between delineated spaces. Kelly’s first solo outing as WIFE came with 2012’s Stoic EP for Throwing Snow and friends’ Left_Blank imprint, just a few months before Altar of Plagues announced their disbandment – though Kelly stated that he had been planning to conclude the band for a while, with 2012’s Teethed Glory and Injury designed as the group’s final album. All of this is relevant to What’s Between, his first album as WIFE, because it sheds light on an artist who constantly plays with conflict and limitation.