cover-kellybarber

Kelly Lynn Barber is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Bridgewater, New Jersey. “Breaking Barriers” is the follow-up to Barber’s 2014 debut EP “Cold Reality”, that was custodian to the internet hit single ‘My Own Contradiction’. “Breaking Barriers” is a loosely conceptual release about overcoming adversity, personal limitations and - problems by finding strength in one’s own self. Even if the music is somewhat indistinct it are Kelly’s vocals and lyrics that form the main attraction.

Barber plays a brand of alternative pop, a convergence of alternative rock with elements of indie rock and pop punk. “Breaking Barriers” is indebted equally to artists as Michelle Branch, Kelly Clarkson but also early Coldplay and in lesser degree Seattle grunge. Kelly Lynn leans more towards a readily pop oriented direction in comparison to fellow New Jersey indie singer Karousel. Overall Barber’s music is closer to Branch’s independent debut “Broken Bracelet” than any of her later more poppier material. As a general rule Barber is at her best at her most straight up rocking. Towards the end of the EP Kelly Lynn allows her soul to truly shine through in the final song.

“Breaking Barriers” offers up a good cross-section of Barber’s various influences while retaining its pop polish. The EP opens with ‘Done with You’, the lead single about liberating oneself from toxic social elements, where Barber combines the lush production work of “Brand New Eyes” Paramore with Michelle Branch song craft. 'Eventually’ is the catchiest and most immediately accessible of the bunch. ‘Tearing Me Apart’ opens with a Nirvana-like riff. ‘What I Had Planned’ sounds like an early Coldplay song. The more rockier numbers tend to have a light grunge undercurrent. The songwriting on “Breaking Barriers” is rather subdued for the most part, and sidesteps big choruses and earworm hooks when it can. The concluding ballad even pulls slightly in a Lene Marlin direction, which is a direction that begs further exploring.

Kelly Lynn has an incredibly fragile, breakable voice that makes her life-affirming, self-empowering lyrics all the more resonating. Barber shortsells herself somewhat by remaining within a mid-to-low register for the entirety of the EP. Her delivery is one of her strongest suits, as it is both honest and emotive. It probably wouldn’t hurt if she’d put some power behind her vocals. Kelly Lynn is at her best vocally towards the end of ‘Eventually’ and during ‘Discord’. The quieter songs, notably tracks as ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Discord’, help sell Kelly Lynn’s vocal abilities. ‘Discord’ is the requisite ballad, and its minimalist composition allows Barber to show what she’s truly capable of. For this reason alone ‘Discord’ is a definite highlight of “Breaking Barriers”.

“Breaking Barriers” was recorded at Fresh Produce Studios with Jake Detwiler producing. As is the expected norm in pop the production is airy, bass-heavy and incredibly smooth. Rather strangely it puts more emphasis on the instrumentation than on Barber’s vocals, the very thing that is supposed to sell the record. Despite the odd choice in production, Kelly Lynn is able to hold her own. In February 2015 Kelly Lynn Barber announced that she was changing her artist name to reflect a change in musical direction. She reintroduced herself as Kelly Sirko, adopting her mother’s maiden name.

cover-caelestis

After the “Spyglass” single pushed the now-expanded Caelestis towards a new direction the line-up disintegrated due to mounting interpersonal conflicts between its some of its members. Piero Avatibile (keyboards) moved to the background and into a more consulting role whereas ties were severed with bass guitarist Fabiana Figurati-Haeckel. “Telesthesia” is the first record since 2012’s “Nel Suo Perduto Nimbo” to have Caelestis slimmed down to the duo of Cataldo Cappiello (instruments) and Vera Clinco (vocals) again. Caelestis has evolved drastically since forming in 2010. “Telesthesia” combines the best of all previous eras.

“Telesthesia” combines the lush production values and pop inclinations of “Spyglass” with the shoegaze, gothic and alternative rock of “Heliocardio”. Vera Clinco has never sounded more powerful, emotive and sensual. For the first time Clinco contributed to the lyric writing, and this results in an even more passionate performance on her part. Having fully abandoned the incidental metal stylings in favor of dreamy minimalism “Telesthesia” is a record mostly concerned with atmosphere and feeling. No longer limited by the restrictive trappings of its superficial metal stylings Caelestis now finally have returned to the dreamy soundscapes of its pre-Clinco era.

The album title refers to extrasensory perception, the supposed ability to obtain information without the use of normal sensory channels. ‘Ode al Mare’ is, as it title suggests, about the symbolic meaning of the sea, and an ode to its beauty and dangers. ‘Yugen’ is the appreciation and beauty of art in Japan. It values the power to evoke, rather than to directly state. In Chinese philosophical texts it means deep, dim or mysterious, and it describes the subtle profundity of things. “Telesthesia” on the whole is a rumination on the beauty of life, the lightness of being, desire and love. “Telesthesia” combines all of the different philosophical – and cultural interests of interest to its central duo.

‘Simboli’, a near minute-long instrumental intro, is a callback to the band’s early serene lounge sound. ‘Etra Diva’ - the first real song - is a strong, emotive opening track that serves to set up lead single ‘Ode Al Mare’. Both cuts push the “Heliocardio” dreampop sound into better written and pristinely produced territory with Clinco’s soaring vocals and Cappiello’s minimal, floating guitar melodies taking the forefront. The only thing not to grow along is the drum programming, which sounds amateuristic at best. ‘Etre Diva’, ‘Ode Al Mare’ and ‘Yugen’ form the titular conceptual trilogy. ‘Convulsa Delicatezza di un Desideridio’ has lyrics written by Vera Clinco, a first for Caelestis. Hopefully she’ll continue to contribute more than just her angelic vocalizations in the nearby future output of Caelestis.

“Telesthesia” is the most ambitious Caelestis product thus far in production and presentation. The album was recorded at Black Eight Studios with Nico Esposito handling the production. Esposito gives “Telesthesia” an airy, breezy sound that is tonally rich and much warmer sounding than the preceding “Spyglass” single, and the earlier “Heliocardio”. The cover make-up and photography was done by Bianca Parisi, with additional photography by Imma Ercolano. Design and layout was handled by Caelestis multi-instrumentalist Cataldo Cappiello for ExNovo Studio. On all fronts “Telesthesia” is a marked improvement for the duo.

Having at long last abandoned the last of its circumstantial metal aspects and “Telesthesia” stands high above its precedessors. Now headlong into the post-rock/shoegaze and dreampop genres Caelestis has embraced all components that play up to the considerable strenghts of its creators. From “Telesthesia” Caelestis can move forward into any direction. Obviously Clinco’s sensual vocals fit the best with a smooth lounge or chill pop sound. Cappiello is at his best within a minimal setting, whether this is electronic, acoustic or wave-like ambient. Minimalism is what drove the early output of Caelestis and returning to that setting, after briefly flirting with gothic-pop, “Telesthesia” sets the stage for exploration of any of its associated subgenres.