This Conrad Keely article was written by Macon Oxley, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead main man, Conrad Keely, offers up a cornucopia of aural treasures with his first solo album, ‘Original Machines’.
An extensive exploration stylistically and thematically, Keely’s first solo venture boasts an impressive twenty-four tracks with enough variety to cater to all musical palettes. Three tracks in, in fact, and he’s already traversed several genre oases – from the synthpop stylings of the title track to the more conventional rock of ‘Warm Insurrection’ and the slightly more expansive granduer of ‘In Words of a Not So Famous Man’.
Inspired by his travels through Cambodia, where Keely now resides, the album does evoke a sense of journey, with the largely varied tracklist providing individual stop-off points for the listener. Keely describes his adoptive country as “a noisy place full of weird sounds – temples, monks chanting, loud speakers blaring, egg sellers and vendors”, stating “I need that chaos, and I think it helps that it’s in a language I don’t understand.” Indeed, it would seem that with this latest effort he’s tried to convey all those noises in a language he does understand – music – with songs like ‘Drive to Kampot’ giving off something of an oriental feel.
It’s fair to say that this is not a typical Trail of Dead type album, though there are some similarities. Keely’s distinctive drawl being one, and being the main thing tying together the smorgasbord of styles available on ‘Original Machines’.
He seems to be enjoying a new freedom here, having moved away from Trail of Dead’s rock paradigm, offering him a chance to explore more ambitious sounds and textures. And for the most part this has proved fruitful, with the album enjoying a certain maturity and eclectic brilliance. On the other hand, the sheer size of the album is quite overwhelming and a little inconsistent. The listener might be forgiven for switching off at the slight over-indulgence that comes from Keely spewing out the contents of his creative vault.
Released via the PledgeMusic platform, the punter can simply go for the album alone or they can enjoy one of the many exclusives available. These include, amongst other things, lyric sheets and original artwork – Keely also being a keen artist, having drawn all the Trail of Dead album art. However, for the prospective listener the sheer amount of content on this album may be quite enough to keep them busy.
Though there is a risk of getting lost in Keely’s meanderings, there’s no denying that those who stick with it will be rewarded with a truly varied, expansive and exploratory body of work. A progressive, almost conceptual, approach melding together a number of styles and influences, this first solo effort does indeed bode well for future releases from the Trail of Dead man.
‘Original Machines’ is out now on PledgeMusic via Superball Music.