Sometimes we just want to have a conversation with own souls. Music is often the voice we give to them. Nelly Kate's new album ISH ISH speaks a language of sadness, longing and bare winter landscapes. When you're ready for that talk, press play.
Nelly is a Richmond, VA-based solo artist with deep emotive sensibilities. Her languid and sweeping vocals ride a gossamer thread of spare melodies and sad shamblings of introspective purpose. On the album ISH ISH, Nelly uses her foreplay-like build-ups that mimic her solo live shows’ layering loops of melodies, beats and atmospherics until her songs find their lines, planes and depth to great anticipatory effect. The result is a mysterious revelation of a beautiful clockwork from a mess of gears and sprockets of sound - a striptease in reverse. The album is haunting in the most sensual way possible.
ISH ISH opens with an exotic clapping march bringing to mind the coming of something new, a clip-clop of a prismatic mounted sylph heralding arrival. The ensuing tracks recall Portishead by way of Twin Peaks. There’s a Bjork on quaaludes strain that cuts through “Blue Badges” but that may be the signature fluttering beats behind her lyrical veil poking through. Nelly treads a familiar musical path, on themes resplendent with influence while leaving her own deep footprints capable of wiping earlier journeys clear. It doesn’t matter who her influences are, she has owned it. It is a minimalist cornucopia overflowing with creative confidence like a glass forgotten under a running faucet.
“Stalkings” is definitely my standout track of the album - a sleepy island beat ensconced in a low harmony loop topped with Nelly’s crystalline chanteuse, promising an uncomfortable mix of sex and naivete. There’s no way to show off honestly. Her voice soars without pretension and wallows alone. Her performance on the album seems very personal, as if we should be ashamed for having intruded on her most intimate thoughts.
There’s a whiff of the XX in a chorus, sometimes a lone Cowboy Junkie on the backlit ridge of a verse. A track will fade in promising hope but by final exhale will have delivered despondence. Her guitar-backed tunes have music box melodies recalling an innocence oft-remembered in purples and pinks, acquiescent to our desire for validation of a past lived well.
This is an album you can nestle into and trust to grow roots in your iTunes. I’ve listened to it exclusively since she sent me the link to the ablum. It shuts up a room. It has already prompted two conversations that devolved into YouTube battles - song for song one-upsmaniships searching for the most heartbreaking thing you’ve ever heard.