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Album review

Kelli Ali 

Band of Angels

added: 8 Jan 2013 // release date: 8 Jan 2013 // label:
reviewer: Ross Cotton

Kelli Ali - Band of Angels - Printable version
Brummie solo artist Kelli Ali is probably better known as the Sneaker Pimps vocalist on their hit single ‘6 Underground‘, from the astounding trip-hop debut ‘Becoming X‘ [1996].

Since then, Kelli has appeared on the track ‘Play with Bootsy‘ by funk artist Bootsy Collins [2002], and released four solo albums, ‘Tigermouth‘ [2003], ‘Psychic Cat‘ [2004], ‘Rocking Horse‘ [2008] and ‘Butterfly‘ [2009]. Her work has also delved deep into gothic horror and classical themes on the Mary Shelley [author of Frankenstein]-inspired album ‘A Paradise Inhabited by Devils‘ [2010], which Kelli recorded with Swiss pianist Ozymandias.

Kelli has recently been hard at work finalising her fifth solo album ‘Band of Angels’, which she developed by raising money from fan’s ‘pledges’ through the site: www.pledgemusic.com; This is the first time Kelli has released an album this way.

‘Band of Angels’ has now exclusively been released in MP3 format to pledgers, and will be posted to those who pledged for the CD format. The CD/MP3 versions of the album can now be pre-ordered from her website.

Over the last decade, Kelli’s influential journey has taken her down a consistently winding pathway of genres. She’s barely stopped to fumigate her chosen exploration, as though experimenting, growing and learning from each is the only way to triumph and move on. A true artist must delicately flourish at each stepping stone, and this is exactly what our Sneaker Pimp continues to do.

Her latest escapade drives forward into Gladiator-esque territory, as Kelli’s striking and powerful new image demands attention and whips up a weak-at-the-knees male following. If Gladiators were to return to TV, I could easily see this album cover advertising its resurrection, and Kelli becoming a contestant (if not a Gladiator herself.)

The album packs a kick, as Kelli wavers between delicacy and dominance, lulling fans down one pathway, but then suddenly swiveling into another. Her opening track ‘The Art of Love’ begins with a hypnotic synth, which quickly enters a dreamy sequence of beautifying violins, as Kelli’s vocals daintily layer the background. The track is a fusion of what Kelli has discovered in her voice from ‘The Rocking Horse’ and from ‘A Paradise Inhabited by Devils’, as her neo-classical pitch dramatically hits ethereal echos of gothnicity. But no, the track isn’t just a shoegaze wonder piece, it also delves further into Kelli’s back catalogue, ressurecting her rebellious poise from the electro-rock-galvanized ‘Psychic Cat’ with ravishing synth hooks.

‘The Hunter’ delves straight back into a sweetness that we’ve come to know and love with Kelli, as her vocals levitate above the music in true pop glory. Think ‘Tigermouth’ but much more innocent, as Kelli enters a new phase of artistry, floating above shoegaze and into a dreamier expanse.

Kelli’s lyrics and vocals have matured excessively since her debut. She evokes passion so perfectly through tracks such as ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Silent Requiem’ that listeners can literally feel her soul glowing alluringly. But perhaps ‘Fear My Shepherd’ is the most beautiful track Kelli has ever written, a track which – once again – falls somewhere between ‘Rocking Horse’ and ‘A Paradise Inhabited by Devils’ in vocal perfection. On ‘Fear My Shepherd’, tearful violin and piano backdrops engender a modern-classical hymn, while fans become encompassed by Kelli’s delicately emotional voice. The track prolongs her folk past, bringing the genre forward through traditional lyrics, while her vocals awaken in a depth of astonishing operatics.

‘Eternity’ follows on from what ‘Fear My Shepherd’ had begun, harmoniously climaxing the album with a string arrangement that could pull the strings of any listener’s heart. This overwhelming 8 minute piece journeys through Kelli’s entire career, developing a compelling pop hit at every angle and layer. Both musically and vocally, this has to be Kelli’s greatest track to date. As for the album, it celebrates her past and continues to amaze at each listen, with Kelli traveling and philosophising over her sound at every turn.

It’s such a shame that Kelli is still only considered a ‘one hit wonder’ with Sneaker Pimps; The media and the masses are missing out, but maybe it’s best to keep Kelli as Birmingham’s hidden gem.


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5 stars

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