Search The Line of Best Fit
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Sinuous, uncanny pop meets sound art in Kee Avil’s Spine


Release date: 03 May 2024
Kee Avil Spine cover
02 May 2024, 13:30 Written by Grace Marshall

Kee Avil is Montreal producer Vicky Mettler’s vehicle for disturbing and experimental composition.

Debut LP Crease gathered attention in esotericist circles and won Mettler collaborations with an emergent songwriting-producing elect including Claire Rousay. Whilst earlier offerings were likened to glitch-pop, Spine stretches electronic composition to the brink of sound design – a sinuous, hyper-produced opus which offers immediate compulsion in its use of not-quite-recognisable organic sounds and digi-horror elements. Described by the artist as “raw and bony”, its presentation draws deeply on the uncanny valley, pocked with motifs that veer towards the familiar and then rapidly back into obscurity.

Mettler’s career as a sound engineer and line in experimental prepared guitar music equip her with the ultimate toolkit for designing Kee Avil’s horrible, visceral vignettes characterised by indecipherable production techniques and crawling, repetitive lyrics. "Felt" introduces a kind of in-between tonality through a pedal note that relentlessly shifts in and out of pitch. Mettler’s relentlessly uncanny delivery recalls innovative vocalists like Regina Spektor and Marina Herlop, although the aggressive vocal fry and whining swoops in tracks like "the iris dry" and "do this again" produce a texture that’s a little irritating at times. Repeating lyrics is a favoured and powerful technique that draws on glitch-pop pioneers like Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz – in "do this again", phrases repeat incessantly and crumbling, as if moving towards some kind of tragic defeat. But it’s the warped sampling and experimental manipulation that’s the hook here – the wet inflections shuddering through ‘fading’, along with something very dry like a creaking door that catches up with itself and then slows down again; elsewhere you catch the hideous, organic sounds of insect wings, of footsteps, of flames and lighters. Whipping between the corporeal and the manufactured, "Gelatin" starts with a kind of monster roar, which turns into a plane engine, then dissolving into those gasmask hoarse vocals layered in weird, pitchy intervals with moments of reassuring vocal homophony that are just as quickly dismantled. "Croak", too, is intensely organic and physiological in its darkness, recalling the post-Hereditary wave of body-horror filmmaking.

Spine is straightforwardly experimental in its deconstruction of rhythm and tonality; its genius ploy is to remain accessible by incorporating these blistering yet appealing sound design elements. It affirms Kee Avil’s status of an aesthetics and production virtuoso comparable to Jlin or SOPHIE – producing a dripping, cavernous version of glitch slammed with manipulations. All the same, when the dark storytelling and body horror aesthetic wears off, you’re left with the feeling that something’s missing. Amongst flashes of tragic communication – like where repetitive phrases build out a domestic nightmare in "at his hands" – after forty minutes, what remains is style rather than substance.

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