Scott Kelly - The Wake
Neurot Recordings
Acoustic Rock, Neofolk
7 songs (34:27)
Release year: 2008
Neurot Recordings
Reviewed by Goat

Scott Kelly’s first solo album in seven years is both different and similar to his Neurosis bandmate Steve Von Till’s recent A Grave Is A Grim Horse, also reviewed here. Yes, it takes a similar acoustic and atmospheric path, drawing on the same tradition of American Folk music and the struggle of man against life, the universe and everything, but where Von Till enhanced his sound with other musicians, Kelly keeps it almost completely to voice and guitar, and where Von Till’s voice is weathered yet relatively pleasant, Kelly’s is almost a growl, coarse and grainy. Listening to The Wake transports you to some bar in the old west on the edge of a desolate wilderness, sipping whiskey whilst a singer moodily strums a guitar in the background – this could be the soundtrack to Deadwood.

Of course, how much you enjoy this will depend on you, but music such as this has always had a depressive effect on me, and Scott Kelly’s sound is no different. There were several times during my pre-review listens when I found myself listlessly staring out of a window at nothing in particular, fallen into some melancholic trance; not bored, just hypnotised, and this is pretty rare! At times, such as in The Searcher, Kelly’s voice becomes a drone and the album seems to shift ground subtly, but you’d have to listen to The Wake many, many times before you could distinguish between songs – apart from the occasional violin (Remember Me) there’s little difference between them. If you want a collection of songs of this nature rather than a purely atmospheric experience, Steve Von Till’s album would be better.

For what it is, however, The Wake is highly effective. Fans of Johnny Cash will find this similar to the Man in Black’s work, albeit even darker and less hopeful. Don’t expect to simply enjoy this album, however. It is an experience, or endurance rather than a listen, and relaxing with this on in a dark room or, if you can, out in nature, is when the album has its best effect. Acoustic music that is actually worth listening to is sadly all too rare these days – Scott Kelly has created something here more than worth seeking out.

Killing Songs :
Album as a whole
Goat quoted 79 / 100
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