With a home-recording productivity rate to rival Robert Pollard, the prolific Brighton-based Rose Keeler-Schäffeler has furnished the musical world with a large body of work in a relatively short space of time. Until now though, her output under the Keel Her alias has been scattered across Soundcloud streams, Bandcamp downloads, limited edition cassettes and a handful of 7” singles. Seeking to institute some semblance of order and more orthodox context for the Keel Her canon comes this first ‘official’ eponymous LP for Critical Heights; which rounds-up old, reworked and new material cut between 2011 and 2013.
Drawing together 18 largely short tracks, devised with the help of regular collaborators (such as reliable multi-instrumentalist Andrew Barnes) and passing guests (notably American lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore), what this self-titled collection lacks in clear focus it makes up with a spirited sense of adventure. Seemingly deploying lo-fi production values more through aesthetical choice than simple matters of economy, the dizzying array of ideas at play here have to work twice as hard to be heard through the fog and fuzz of raw fidelity.
Initially then it’s the most forthright and melodic songs which bleed through the blur most effectively. Hence, from near the very beginning comes a sublime homage to the first Raincoats album, with the euphoric art-punk of “Go.” In its wake a stream of equally robust and enjoyable nuggets rise to the surface, in the shape of the Lush-meets-Cocteau Twins dream-pop of “Only Geeks Come Bearing Gifs,” the MBV-like “(I Hate It) When You Look At Me,” the winsome Shangri-Las via Stereolab bliss of “Women Lost In Thought,” the deeply joyous Beat Happening/Feelies indebted jangle of “Don’t Look At Me” and the raunchy mangle of the aptly anointed “Riot Grrrl.”
Away from tapping into the essence of more recognisable and iconic influences, many of the remaining gathered pieces are of a more experimental and harder to cross-reference nature. This more challenging tranche of material – which is mainly constructed with rudimentary electronic building blocks – still proffers some highlights nevertheless. Providing us with some serene ambience (“Overtime”), levitating space-pop (“Roswell” and “Black Hole”), elemental dronescaping (“Missing Time”) and even heavily-warped R ‘n’ B (“Whatever”). Inevitably, this strand of the release contains more obstacles for those unable to cope with the bedroom-birthed murkiness of the album as a whole. However, with some fine-tuning this less guitar-centric side of Keel Her could rise more positively to the fore in future.
Whilst this compendium is a tad short of being the definitive Keel Her ‘story so far’ statement it was perhaps intended to be – something the inclusion of the balmy R. Stevie Moore-produced “With Me Tonight” b/w “Boner Hit” 7” tracks and the superior single version of “Riot Grrrl” would have helped to address – it does generously introduce the wider world to an artist in possession of an infectious creative restlessness, who clearly has even more to offer moving forwards.