Three Ewes review Bull Kelp’s first release, “Painting & Drawing”

Album Review
Bull Kelp – Painting & Drawing
Bull Kelp - Paintings and Drawings

Ebo Weever

E. Weever writes…

The sound of Bull Kelp is so satisfyingly heartsplitting one begins to wonder if the heart just always existed in pieces, or if it may at least be better off remaining that way.

No matter what room each song creates, the window always stays open, letting its own wild breeze enter, exit, or circle the globe at will.

As I settle into this patch of late February grass to review “Painting & Drawing,” the first offering from new Canadian duo Bull Kelp, I am overcome with a few questions:

Is this duo not in love with so much between and before them?

Did I not cry all the way through “I Ain’t Givin’ Up On You” ?

Did the song not remind me of a deep love I once had who needed only some space to feel his way into our vast and unknowable journey together? Ah, but I was young and felt so scared to lose his love and whispers. So I held tightly to him.  He left for the highlands, leaving me to live in the grace of loss, tears and distance.

But I di-grass…

If someone were to hold a pair of shearing clippers to my elegantly styled body wool and ask me to sum up this record I would intimate thusly:

Sparse arrangements combined with complex chord changes, unconventional song structures, tender harmonies and lyrics that pulse with surprise, life and conviction.

As much as it lays counter to my intention of treating this project as a single creature, I am compelled to comment upon each of the duo’s two members separately.

Zoe Guigueno’s contributions, to me, embody some lost ritual language of women – mothers, grandmothers and parted souls, intimating tragedies normally too subtle to articulate, or too overwhelmingly obvious to notice.

All of her portraits seem to exist in deceptively sorrowful worlds – attics, basements and hospital room closets primarily – redeemed inwardly by both their capacity for total surrender as well as their completely ecstatic commitment to shadow dancing.

From the compelling despondency of ‘Matryoshka’ to the grudge-indulgent and gut-sick ‘skewered,’ some kind of blood-letting from the collective female unconscious in particular, totally unique in my experience of modern female writers. Dusty and remarkably vivid simultaneously – a rare and gorgeous feat.

Taylor Ashton’s seasoned vocal delivery and skilled (balanced) sense of songcraft come through strong as ever in this project. As always I am struck by how deeply Taylor can carve into an emotion we thought was familiar, only to open up nuances that reveal how, in our own lives, so many of us tend to stop watching at the preview. Take the dizzying sensations presented in “Point of No Return,” as a case-in-point:

“There is a kind of visceral thrill / Peering down at a drop that would kill / Without going over, you want to discern / The point of no return.”

One also cannot help but be drawn in by Taylor’s precise tendency to deliver words that communicate universal wisdom while retaining their entire ground in personal experience:

“I don’t have to tell my fingers what to do / They just move / Somehow without conscious thought / They always make the right shapes.”

Something I’m excited about in Taylor’s evolution as a songwriter is his increasing willingness to remain entranced by a single image lyrically, all the while allowing himself more and more freedom within the musical landscape. It seems to me – and I certainly appreciate the boldness in saying so – that the mandala of his individual ecstasy is unveiling more and more of its clarity and colour with each new work he offers.

Like the sealife referenced in this duo’s name, Zoe and Taylor lay thick beds on the rocks – or foundation – of their ‘kelp-brand’ compositions. The stringed instruments (guitar/banjo/double bass) weave around and through each other, effectively creating a strange and beautiful balance of sonic tension and ceaseless ease.

As the heart brings towards us all this beauty from the whole and unending soul of music, I give great thanks to Taylor and Zoe for allowing experience to resonate in their limbs then twitch, tremble and draw its way out into paintings of sound and poetry.




Sheet Pope

The Sheet Pope writes…

B eautiful
U nresolved
L yrical
L ucid

K elpy (oceanic/robust/nourishing)
E xperimental
L asting
P ortraits


Mad Ewe

Mae Dew writes…

there are at least ten songs on that. its a boy an girl i think. she did the boomy notes beneath an he kept feeling things throughout.

i think i herd a g chord and one time he did f. i like the word ‘oooo ooo ooo’ on dandeyloins song. did you hear that one? i bet a polar bear mite like this allbum but good luck gettin it all th way there it is so far.

i think i mite swell clean my favorit potato when this ones on cause the third song is ezackly how long for filling my sink so i can know its not going to goosh..

i like the line bout buttered fries causing hurricanes that one is true. did you ever see someone dance at bull kelp showing playing ?, no an thas cuz those audience r always busy listenin so close to what looks and what finds.