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I Need You to Hold On While the Sky Is Falling

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Album Review

Kelley Polar's second album builds on the already rarefied majesty of his debut and expands outward in all directions: more plush neo-classical elegance, more crackling precision-disco euphoria, more dashing, gooey sentimentality, more meandering harmonic intricacy and dizzying structural invention, more pop and more fizz. I Need You to Hold on While the Sky Is Falling is an exercise in controlled excess, a lavishly calibrated and articulately decadent statement from an utterly singular artist. In compositional terms, the Juilliard-trained Kelley strikes a skillful balance between dense, dazzling chordal complexity and melodic accessibility. With some assistance from longtime consort and nu-disco guru Morgan Geist (credited with mixing and additional production), he coaxes an almost uncanny crispness and visceral presence from his limited instrumental palette of strings, synthesizers, digital beats, and vocals (sampled, spliced, and layered or simply, soulfully sung), creating a sense of sonic purity and cohesion-out-of-chaos that dovetails perfectly with his lyrical themes. This cohesiveness of conceptual content is the album's most unique and endearing quality, but also its biggest potential sticking point: I Need You to Hold On traffics in a sort of epic hodgepodge mysticism, using references to Greco-Roman mythology, new agey spiritual philosophy, and pop astrophysics to evoke a grandiose vision of universal interconnectivity. It's the kind of thing that can be nearly to impossible to stomach if presented with more than a whiff of self-seriousness, but can also feel like distasteful mockery if treated too lightly. But Kelley Polar is both smart and sensitive enough to pull it off: his delivery is straight-faced and earnest throughout, but while he clearly intends these sentiments quite sincerely, there's also a slightly ambiguous undercurrent of levity that comes through in both his nimble, nuanced musicality and occasional moments of parodic excess. Surely, the over the top, vocodered, and time-delayed guided meditation that opens "A Feeling of the All-Thing" carries a winking sense of its own ridiculousness, yet it's too bold and striking a gesture to be dismissed as mere novelty, especially given the magnificently rapturous disco fantasia that emerges out of that esoteric invocation. Metaphysical concerns aside, it's hard to argue with the exceptional beauty and powerful strangeness this music conjures up: the searing, intimate romanticism of the diaphanous "Dream in Three Parts (On Themes by Enesco)," the ruminative, infinitely self-refracting curiosity of "Zeno of Elea," the kicky kinetic energy of "Sea of Sine Waves," and, especially, the immaculate single "Entropy Reigns (In the Celestial City)," a duet ode to hedonistic indulgence with ambrosial electro-pop hooks to match. As ambitious, idiosyncratic, and satisfying as his music is in its own right, it's Kelley's virtuosity with the interplay between sounds and ideas, on a larger scale, that makes him a true visionary. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Great Follow Up

Even though his first was more groundbreaking (by default), I feel this expands upon his sound enough to make it a really solid album. Still stands on its own amongst so much of the same production in electronic music today.

five stars?

This is album is better than you think. Just listen to it! I don't know why so many people are complaining that the previous album is better, that is irrevelant. This is a good standalone album.

Continuing excellence in a genre all by itself

Polar's first album was a lighting bolt strike of dark smooth vocals over a cosmic-disco beat. This album follows that same path and continues in a genre that he has defined himself. If the first one seemed stronger, it was because it may have been the first time you have heard such cool brilliance as this. The second time, you are prepared, but want the same thrill - this attempt is no weaker than the first. Is it Pretentious? Yes, but when you are a Julliard graduate you can afford a bit of that. But more importantly, it is Great.

Biography

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Initially known for providing the strings on tracks by Metro Area ("The Art of Hot," "Caught Up," "Miura") and Metro Area's Morgan Geist ("24K"), Kelley Polar (last name first, adjective last; real name: Mike Kelley, the brother of Blevin Blectum) began releasing a series of 12" singles in 2002. Released on Environ and featuring assistance from label head Geist, 2002's Audition, 2003's Recital, and 2004's Rococo were somewhat similar to Metro Area's singles — in detail, inspiration, and basic...
Full Bio
I Need You to Hold On While the Sky Is Falling, Kelley Polar
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