Keeley’s debut EP ‘Brave Warrior’ proved that it was possible for a band to have a retro sound without sounding like a complete throwback to the past. Its four songs had a 90s electronica/dreampop heart, but there was enough about its feel and song writing that felt very contemporary. In terms of alternative pop, it was broad in its appeal, and the praise gained from high profile industry faces like Stuart Maconie and Steve Lamacq was more than deserved.
Barely four months on, a follow up EP ‘Echo Everywhere’ emerged. Despite the quick turnaround, , it is not in any way inferior. In fact, its previously unheard material is just as strong, suggesting that at least one of the tracks could’ve been considered for the debut. This is in no way a collection of second tier leftovers.
The title cut opens with a beautiful clean guitar sound, throwing out a riff with a moderate twang and a slight reverb, falling somewhere between an old Chris Isaak tune and some modern light indie. The arrival of the rhythm section fleshes out an immediately great sound, pushing forth a classic melody that mixes slight influences from ‘Bends’ era Radiohead with a trip hop groove. It’s all quite simple, but in many ways, the spaciousness and unfussy nature of the music is vital to making it so effective. A harmonious vocal doesn’t have much in common with previous Keeley tracks, but an almost lax delivery and obvious Irish lilt gives it a distinctive charm of its own, while the main hook is strong enough to work its magic somewhere around the third play. By the time an instrumental section emerges towards the close of the track, an increase in guitar presence offers a strong melodic heart and the trip hop-ish beats help to build up a very slight climax in a way that’s never flashy. This mightn’t seem like classic Keeley at first, but there’s definitely something about the track that’s incredibly satisfying.
With a more uptempo groove and plenty of shimmering guitar lines at its disposal, ‘Never O’Clock’ is much more immediate. A brilliant pop melody presents itself from the outset, and despite being drowned in 90s dreampop filters that make it sound like a musical love letter to a couple of old 4AD bands, it conveys a confident, almost sugary core that’ll strike a chord with lovers of a lot of alternative pop sounds. The mix of layered guitar, mid-tempo beats and lazy vocal serves up a near perfect mood that is in equal parts other worldly and massively tuneful, and as a world of filters and hazy moods slowly unravel, its very easy to feel enveloped by the detached quality that Keeley very much work to their advantage. Offering something very atmospheric, the EP’s highlight, ‘To A London Sunrise’ opens with a blanket of keys smothering some typical Keeley-centric guitar work. With immediate effect Keeley (the person and the eponymously named band) steer everything towards a semi mournful mood where 90s dreampop jostles with light prog rock, showing off a broader set of musical skills than ever before. The quiet disquieting lead vocal works in a way where the melodies often seem more important than the lyric, but Keeley (the person) supplies a perfect counterpart to the wandering musical base. It takes all of a minute before this musical union asserts itself as classic Keeley, and once the keys fall away to unveil a steady beat and detached keys, things improve further still. Hints of the much missed Smoke Season colour some great pop, before the arrangement delivers an absolutely beautiful climax where droning keys underscore a deftly played guitar solo. With an abrupt end, it very much sells itself short – especially if you’re expecting that solo to stretch into the realms of King Black Acid and their ilk – but as a snapshot of a great band stretching their sound, it’s absolutely lovely.
Rounding out the release is a remix of the already popular ‘Glitter and The Glue’. Charged with giving the track a new mood Stereolab/Chapterhouse producer Paul Tipler, and he doesn’t rebuild the track from the ground up, but instead presents a very sympathetic mix where the guitars sound a little deeper and slightly flatter, which has the effect of pushing the vocal forward, making it very much the main feature. It could be argued that shorn of the sharper edges ‘Glitter’ becomes a little more radio friendly. Although it doesn’t provide a new musical revelation, it still gives fans a welcome alternative.
‘Echo Everywhere’ feels like an obvious companion to ‘Brave Warrior’, but tunes like ‘To A London Sunrise’ also show the musicians gently pushing forth and hinting at future sounds on that inevitable full length release. For those who enjoyed the previous EP, at least two songs here will make this an essential download, and for those yet to hear Keeley, sequencing the two releases together will definitely provide an effective overview of a band heading for greater things. Whichever way you approach this, you’ll uncover some understated dreampop/indie gold.