Wife, What’s Between

Andy Battaglia

By Andy Battaglia

on 06.10.14 in Reviews
Like James Blake’s darker, moodier twin brother

What to make of a strapping young man who calls himself Wife? How about an artist who leaves an excoriating black-metal band to make ethereal electronic music? Such are the questions surrounding James Kelly, an enigmatic Irishman who has exhibited an uncommon command over a vast range of sounds. What’s Between, his full-length debut as Wife after the striking Stoic EP in 2012, is suggestively spacious and slow but also tense, with a sense of pressure and constriction that lends gravitas to even the wispiest ambient sounds. Like other artists on the Tri Angle Records label (see: Balam Acab, Holy Other, the Haxan Cloak), Wife favors ashy blacks and greys that play like charcoal drawings in comparison to lots of other electronic music’s day-glo palette. But they’re just as expressive, and more dramatic too — especially with Kelly’s smoky, sing-songy voice placed front and center in the mix. Tracks like “Heart is a Far Light” and “Fruit Tree” are songs first and soundscapes second, with vocals as prominent as any other element in an array of electronics. In his devotion to and deviations from soul music, Wife might be James Blake’s darker, moodier twin brother, with more psychological issues to process and way more Depeche Mode in his record collection.