grecian duo keep shelly in athens perhaps represent the gold standard of electronic bands that are able to make meaningful pop music in a post-chillwave era. after forming in 2010 and releasing a string of eps and singles through forest family, the vinyl imprint of gorilla vs. bear, the two hopped on cascine records to cut their debut full-length, which is far more dark and atmospheric than i had expected.
it’s important to talk about “oostende,” the second single off of at home and one of my favorite tracks from this summer, but it’s pointless to dwell on it. anyone searching for chillwave replications will quickly find out that this song is a misnomer; at the very best, “oostende” is a reference point for faithful listeners, reiterating what keep shelly in athens have built up to this point but using it to jump off into the next realm of musical exploration. the subsequent three tracks send the duo descending into the downtempo realm, arriving on “madmen love” and “stay away,” a pair of songs that are just plain heavy. sarah p’s vocals are as ethereal as one would have come to expect, but the production is notably more dense than earlier, hazy tracks like “recollection.”
keep shelly in athens continue to flirt with these two permutations of electronic music so expertly that sharp left turns, like the brief, gritty “knife” catch both active and passive listeners by surprise, but the duo is simply at their best on dreamy, downtempo numbers like “sails.” a simple synth pad coupled with precise drum hits floats underneath the texture for most of the album’s deep cut, before giving way to a gorgeous cacophony that details the band’s paramount understanding of how chaos and harmony should complement one another.
at home is one of the few albums i’ve heard this year that absolutely demands the listener’s full attention. while the songs lack measurable pop hooks, they make up for it with sheer intensity and sharp attention to detail. i’d be remiss if i didn’t recommend this record.