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Calgary, Canada

Credit - Angela Sunyoo Lee

Sarah Kellysen’s latest full-length album release, ‘Vertigo’ employs a wide variety of tones and textures to deliver a worldly sound that mixes chill-wave with intimate pop. Synth in a coffee shop. The instrumentals throughout are varied in their tone and genre, but all hone in on that cool vibe. They make you want to sit back and relax, think about the spinning world and its wonders and look to the nearest horizon, waiting for a sunset. Whether they showcase jazzy guitar, percussive cowbells, retro synth or neon house tones, they are methodical, rhythmic and breathy, alluring, they pull you into a smoky room, blessed with the scent of oils and candle wax.

The album starts with this sultry vibe. ‘Mundane Monday’ is chipper with its percussion and mellow with everything else. The bass brings up the passion and raises the soundstage higher and higher. It's a practice in neon-pop and new chill-wave. The vocals are close, conversational, tight. They breathe over the tones, subduing them, creating a focus on the lyrics rather than the melody. It works to promote this transformative experience. You begin to see the walls of the room you’re sitting in, but they have changed. The music has moved you forward, to a time and place that is unfamiliar. Soon it will be, once the other songs have their say.

‘Dreamscape’ is airy, its high synths and pads clip the air; its pastels, watercolours. The vocals here take a step back allowing the rhythms and melody of the song to come to the centre stage. We begin to see the world take on solidarity, strengthened by the cyclic rhythms and melodies within the track. ‘Dreamscape’ does what ‘Mundane Monday’ does not, it is almost a complete antithesis, which is a perfect opener. You all at once are given the bookends of the sound, what it can be from both ends of Sarah Kellysen’s spectrum. Now we fill out the middle and see just where the night will take us.

The album pushes on: ‘Sensual Feeling’, ‘Future Space Lounge’, ‘Visions of You’ all finish the same picture. Waiting in a dim café for someone to walk by, someone to catch your eye. It is euphoric and emotional, they play with tones, textures and tempo to deliver an encompassing and loving vibe, one fuelled by lust and driven by desire. It's still a feeling of the future. The walls are deep red but the cars are chrome, some flying, some darting by at 1000 miles an hour. It's a wonderful mid-world of the near future and futures far away. What we are left with are otherworldly songs that fit the ‘Vertigo’ bill extremely well.

Sarah Kellysen takes us, now, on a deeper dive into the conscious and into the pop sounds of tomorrow. The pace of ‘Erratic’ the lyrical substance in ‘Kings and Queens’ the heart and soul in ‘Black Rainbow’ and the downright addicting melody in ‘Pray for Another Day’. It's all working to strengthen our ties to the world of ‘Vertigo’ and to get us there, visually, sonically and physically. Sarah Kellysen has used their profound musical experience to deliver an album that is unusually unique. Its mix of hyper-future meets coffee-jazz is a blend that I would never have expected to work, but it does here, under the low intimate power of the vocals. They shift and change depending on the track but they always hit the mark they need to. ‘Vertigo’ is a letter in song to a future you, them or any other. It tells stories that have, will and will always happen. The story of humanity and its struggle to feel. A work of sonic poetry.

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