Kee Avil


The latest from Kee Avil finds the Montréal producer exploring wide open spaces, decorating them with closely-miked field recordings and breathily diaristic recantations, finds Jon Buckland

Within Spine’s forty minute run-time, Kee Avil scampers across myriad references points from a broad array of modern musical masters. There’s the quiet exploration of Keeley Forsyth, Coil’s unsettling esotericism, and Lucrecia Dalt’s sensuality. We get creaking sounds akin to Gazelle Twin’s straining electronics, the delicate leanings of HTRK, Ronce-like ASMR, elements of Björk’s vulnerability, and, impressively, she hops between these various styles and approaches, whilst restricting herself to just four sound sources per song.

The hypnotic, droning guitar of album opener ‘Felt’ is played in an almost percussive manner. In a way where tone, tempo, and feeling are more important than precision. It’s reminiscent, in that respect, to Richard Dawson’s fretboard work on Nothing Important. It’s folk music within its own tradition. An expressive melding of voice and guitar.

Spine simmers, sashaying close to eruption and, whilst the sounds may alter track to track – there’s squelching, rummaging, foley recordings, digital drums, burning distortion clouds, pulsing bass, and vibrating notes fizzing against one another – the ever-present backbone of the album, linking all the pieces together, is Avil’s voice.

Her vocals bring forth further Gazelle Twin comparisons but, where Elizabeth Bernholz might let rip with a scream that could curdle tears, Avil is more reserved. There is power behind her outpourings, yet these are rarely emitted with full blown gusto. It feels, instead, like she is holding back. Keeping something for herself as she twists and twirls in her softly restrained style. A style that encourages her listeners to lean in, to listen closer.

Penultimate track ‘under’ finds her voice reduced to little more than air scraping through her larynx and there’s a fragile intimacy to the refrain of ‘do this again’: “You swore we’d never do this again and again and again”. It’s sultry regret, riding a tense rising cadence that grows increasingly frantic to meet the rhythm of her vocal’s plosives. On ‘the iris dry’ she whispers, “a truth so great my mind’s eye cries”, the words drooling out as if from a chemically nodding head. Sounds worm around like squeezed gel. It’s an inviting tapestry that sounds enticing from speakers and even more fascinating through headphones.

With cans strapped to your ears, you feel as if you’ve been allowed a clandestine peek into Avil’s private journal but the ambiguous way she writes only compounds the uncertainty, spreading further clouds of mystery out across those vast, sonically-sparkling vistas.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today