Search The Line of Best Fit
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Kelpe 4 by Brian Harrington

Track by Track: Kelpe on The Curved Line

27 August 2015, 12:00

Kelpe, aka underground electronic producer Kel McKeown, is streaming his new record The Curved Line and has given us a handy guide as to what each track means and how they were composed.

Fans of music tech might be intrigued as to what equipment he's used, to make the record, and how Aphex Twin, Can, Boards Of Canada, and Vangelis have all had an impact. If you're keen to hear what Caribou or Four Tet might sound like if they'd been fed Krautrock and experimental noise growing up, then look no further. Kelpe's frequently held in high esteem, but commerical success has so far evaded him - we've seen a gradual evolution towards dancefloors, and while this is pleasantly far away from Guetta-esque thwobbery, there's definite melodies, pulses, and rhythms.

This is McKeown's follow up to 2013 LP Fourth: The Golden Eagle, and features already-heard singles "Valerian", "Doubles Of Everything", and "Calumet".

Doubles Of Everything

Since I pretty much made the tracks on this LP in the order they appear on the album, this is the track I started with at the beginning of the process of making the LP, so I had that fresh feeling of a nice blank page when starting it. I normally like to open an album with something quite slow that sets the mood from where it might go forward. I guess you could call it a bit of an attempt in tension and release with the thin and spooky piano intro leading into the more satisfying synth riff. The slow drum beat is off my Roland TR-606, gear fans!


This picks up the tempo of the album just slightly but hopefully hints that there's some pacier numbers on the record. The melody on this was made on a newly acquired Pocket Piano made by Critter and Guitari somewhere in the states, and during the recording process I ran it through this gnarly Waldorf 2 Pole filter that I used a lot during the making of the album. It's a pretty simple arpeggiating two chord melody, with variations on that theme.


The original idea for the LP was for each song to be a bit faster than the one before, so this picks up the pace once again following from 'Chirpsichord'. I'd just got a Roland TR-707 drum machine so it was a pretty simple repeating pattern I programmed on that, over the top of an evolving chord drone made on the Teenage Engineering OP-1. Then lots of extra percussion loops made with this little Korg Volca drum machine.

Sick Lickle Thing

The title of this says 'Cyclical Thing' if you say it out loud, geddit? It's called that because this eight bar chord progression just goes round and round, with different synths and sounds coming to the forefront and solo-ing. This is one of the two tracks on the album with live drums by Chris Walmsley, and these were recorded at Press Play Studios by Andy Ramsay from Stereolab, which I love mentioning.

Red Caps Of Waves

I was watching some footage of dolphins being slaughtered in Taiji Bay, Japan, and really horrified by it. The title for the track comes from that, and so do the vocal samples in the second half. I think I was trying to create some kind of angry, murderous feel with the drums, although the rest of it sounds like some cheesy Jean-Jacques Perrey song, so it has a bit of a split personality. Most of the synth sounds on this are my Korg MS-20.


Another idea I had when making this album that went out the window, as I decided to not be so pretentious, was to release the album in two separate parts. In the end I decided to glue it back together into the old faithful album format, but I still do think of the album as working in two chapters or movements, with 'Valerian' providing a fresh start to the second half. It starts with the most skeletal clicky beats and then fills and fills into a really thick layered thing.

Drums For Special Effects

Lots of Korg Polysix on here, and I can't seem to remember much about recording this track; I think it just came together without me thinking about it much, which is normally a good thing. I think it's basically inspired by old Luke Vibert and Aphex Twin/Analord.

Morning Two

This track is a totally different mood to the others on the LP or anything I've done before, and provides a bit of atmosphere and minimal respite from the noiseyness of the rest of the record. The slightly queasiness to it is totally inspired by some of the more far out moments on Point album by Cornelius. I went all the way into this remote jungle place in Mexico and recorded tropical jungle sounds, then on the last night of the trip I got drunk and lost the audio recorder with it's recordings, so had to find the rainforest sounds from elsewhere instead.


Another stupid pun in the title - it's because the drum beat is supposed to be like the band Can and the synths are supposed to sound like Vangelis. Again, the live drums were played by Chris Walmsley recorded in the same session as 'Sick Lickle Thing'. The mood of the song intentionally harks back to my days of trying to sound like Boards of Canada, but this time with more of an urgent feel.


I often find making the last track for an album the most enjoyable - I guess it's about summing up the mood of the album and possibly going off on a tangent, hinting at what may be next to come. This is a track of two halves as well, a fierce kind of beaty first section and the remainder in the second half being focused on delicate melody.

The Curved Line is out via Kelpe's own DRUT Recordings on 28 August. You can hear it in full below. Kelpe will play London's The Waiting Room on 17 September.

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