This isn’t my first brush with Spartan Jet-Plex. A few months back, her album Touch Tone drifted my way, and I was swept up in a wash of experimental folk, filled with haunting, ethereal vocals braided into bedroom pop. So, for her latest release, Get Some, all the research was done and dusted—or so I thought. The face behind the music? Nancy Kells. Her background? A sculpture degree followed by a profession in special education. Work ethic? Unparalleled. For Kells, it would seem that writing and recording music is done with the ease of an exhalation, as her albums are consistently released in quick (I’m talking a few months or so) succession.
And still, her latest oeuvre was riddled with surprises and innovative leaps in style. Get Some is an eclectic experiment, a curveball that we’ve been lucky enough to catch. The versatility among its tracks is likely due, in part, to its method of assembly. Certain songs Kells has had for years, never finding a place for them on previous EPs, only to excavate them from the abyss of a hard drive for this new home. The nine-track compilation is brimming with this sense of rediscovery and pleasantly thwarted expectations. It’s the sort of work that tugs on the question: how well do you really know someone?
Well, when it comes to Kells, there’s still much to learn.
"Emptiness" begins on a gentle, if not slightly unnerving note. Kells’ vocals are lightly layered over one another, an echoing call-and-response which fits with the track’s theme, as the lyrics repeat, “I am nothing, just emptiness.” A metallic percussion rolls both subtly and steadily beside a spattering of outer-space synth, as Kells’ apathetic tone creates a one-woman choir. The effect is one of a completely mirrored funhouse, our reflections extended for what seems like infinity, and yet we are alone. After all, it’s just an illusion—or to borrow Kells’ description, emptiness.
Then there’s "Life is Mine," which also opens with a cold, satellite-signal synth vaguely, similar to the aforementioned track. Only this one boasts a fuller backdrop. Where "Emptiness" felt lonely, "Life is Mine" unravels with a fragile intimacy. Kells once again stacks her tender vocals, a motif which appears often throughout the new album.
In a change of pace, the penultimate track, "Implode," grumbles with a low pitch and hollow, intermittently-placed drumming. It’s a foreboding tone, paired with a rustling ambiance that slinks itself into the beat, leaving us on the cusp of chills throughout.
Overall, Get Some is no stranger to darker shades, haunting with its hypnotic yet eerie melodies, Kells’ stratified voice, and a penchant for electronic details. This latest release flutters with the delicacy of a moth; it feels nocturnal, with its spooky and otherworldly dips in style that have a spectral beauty. It’s an alluring pastiche that proves preconceptions have no place in Spartan Jet-Plex’s discography.