We’re already fans of Spartan Jet-Plex, the recording project of Nancy Kells. As well as writing about her own music, we also featured Friends for Equality, the great compilation that she put together with friends in aid of Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Now Kells is back with not one, not two, but three new Spartan Jet-Plex EPs. The spirit of the compilation is very much alive on all three EPs, as the songs are interspersed with recordings of chants from Disrupt J20! in Richmond, Virginia on January 20, 2017.
Temporal Memory opens with ‘Malarial Suite’, a classic Spartan Jet Plex song, with a strange digital atmosphere, like an internet age Twin Peaks soundtrack. ‘Another Other’ undulates with a gauzy dreaminess, layered vocals shifting over one another, disrupting the usual image of a singer fixed in one place in front of a microphone, instead issuing from many points at once, coming together in a gentle swirl.
‘Bella’ opens with a kind of nostalgically futuristic feeling, like travelling through a barren wasteland comprised of 1s and 0s. It soon shifts into a Gothic folk song, and then again into minimal electro dream pop. The song really highlights Kells’s skills as a shapeshifter, meaning the listener trying to pin her sound in any one place has about as much success as a lepidopterist working with live butterflies. The final track, ‘Lobe’, is thick with prickly static, unfolding in pulsing waves of electronics, not unlike the later work of Trouble Books or Lejsovka and Freund.
Amygdala Sky begins with a lushly melancholic pop track, ‘hold me steady’, which again highlights Kells’s dreamlike use of shifting patterns, elements of other songs sinking in and taking over before being pushed out again. The rest of the tracks follow a similar blue print, like the pulsing ‘Fresh Model’, the carefully insular ‘Ruminate’ and the spacious and reverberating ‘Brain Dead’, its layered vocals overlapping into a ghostly choir of disembodied voices. As if to reinforce the chameleon that is Spartan Jet-Plex, things then morph into a minimal electro pop, with gently buzzing and whirring effects.
The final EP of the three is Casual Cortex, opening with the sad and claustrophobic ‘Under Kin’, just mumbling keys and Kells’s vocals. ‘Our Kings’ is like a quiet pop song from the dead of night, wisps of background vocals like an additional instrument behind Kells’s main voice. Then there’s the stark and bare Gothic folk sound of ‘Earth’ (at least before the digital elements begin to creep in at the edges), the wonky and distorted ‘Winter Sin’, all ticking percussion and shreds of vocals and the blare of static, eventually falling into place, the disparate elements arranged just so to make complete sense. Then all that’s left is ‘Risen’, which, even after listening to all three EPs, doesn’t fail to surprise and sound unique.
You can get Temporal Memory, Amygdala Sky and Casual Cortex now on a name-your-price basis from the Spartan Jet-Plex Bandcamp page.