If, in fifty years, a single thing comes to define our current generation of artists and musicmakers, it will be the steady tearing down of walls between genres. A close runner-up will be a lingering backward glance, one that of simultaneous nostalgia and cynicism. In this way, the Greek chillwave project Keep Shlley in Athens are a terrifically modern outfit, arriving here with their most scattering release yet, Philokalia.
Featuring a new vocalist, Australian novelist and poet Jessica Bell, the album traffics in somewhat similar territory to 2016’s In Love With Dusk. But here producer RPR seems intent on pushing the established sounds to their outer limits.
The album’s overall shape is one of water cascading off a cliff; seamless and languid, and on a deeper level, meditative. The duo successfully impart these moods without ever making the music itself inaccessible. RPR explores sounds as variant as ambient waves (“Believe”) with almost crunk-like percussion (“We Want More”) and more straightforward pop compositions. (“Dark Light”)
Bell’s vocals offer a fresh, crisp dichotomy opposite the often drilling and percussive synths. At times her voice soars operatically, as the compositions are held together by any of a wide platter of darkly textured tones. There is an alternation between pop-like hooks, such as on standout “Leave in Silence,” that unconsciously will veer into extended, dreamy instrumental breaks.
The singer’s flair for language is also evident—a subtle strain of poetic anxiety cuts through in images of dance-club romance, the hypnotic glow of a city skyline, and a longing for healing. From the title track:
Love, of the beautiful
will rise, once again
Philokalia is not only an exploratory and engaging showcase of the duo’s sensibilities, but also a musical study in the current cultural moment. If you agree that the world presently sits at the center of a great swirling chaos, wide-ranging sounds like what we are treated to on Philokalia remind us that there is value in attempting to make some sense of the storm.