Review: Brianna Kelly / Sympathy Pain – split

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Label: Whited Sepulchre Records

The music contained on the split between Brianna Kelly and Sympathy Pain is the kind of thing that we all need within our lives; something to unwind with, to let go of our cares and worries as we try to find some sort of inner peace. Warm, and comforting, this is a split of soul-soothing ambient and emotional post-rock, that possesses a human touch and tenderness that can so often be lacking in the genres, making this a release to recommend both to those who already appreciate said styles, but also those who aren’t usually fans.

Brianna Kelly takes the first side, with four compositions of ambient, drone-pop songs that recall the likes of Grouper and Julianna Barwick. Built upon repetitive, seemingly simple movements, the songs pull the listener in to a pleasantly relaxed, almost sleepy state, with stress and worries being shed as the songs drift on. Though there is something inherently sad about their subdued sound – especially with the vocals, which are often a breathless near-whisper, as ethereal as they are melancholic – the end result is more relaxing. This is music of a quiet, spiritual catharsis; of inner refreshment; of making peace with the world and your place in it. Put simply, it is gorgeous.

Sympathy Pain are more post-rock in sound, but very much aligned with Brianna Kelly’s music in terms of feel and end emotional result. Shimmering guitars, gentle drones, and sparse drums make up the component parts of their two songs, that feel simultaneously sparse and yet so very warm and comforting. They bring to mind the music of Fennesz, and like his music, there have a sense of life about them; their ambient compositions feel as if they are quietly telling stories, moving with wonderfully under-stated narrative and emotion. The result is, like with Brianna Kelly, music that feels comforting, helping the listener to shed their invisible burdens at the end of the day, losing themselves within the soundscapes created.

What both acts here achieve is that holy grail of ambient music of any kind – to be as rewarding when actively engaging with it, as it is when used as background music. Left running whilst you focus on other things, these compositions will still succeed in transmitting their warmth and sense of quiet healing; and if engaged with, there is plenty of reward to be found in their loops and subtle shifts, and the way gentle changes of focus move the songs along. This is a wonderful split, with both bands contributing some very special music.

Split is available digitally and on cassette via Bandcamp.


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