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Madlen Keys — Event Horizon
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, LP / CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-11-14

Event Horizon Cover art

Are progressive rock and accessible pop mutually exclusive? Madlen Keys is a relatively new band from Paris — a five song EP With You I’m Lost came out in 2021, and Event Horizon is ther first full-length release — that will certainly have the listener pondering such questions. At the center of Madlen Keys’ sound is its enigmatic composer, lyricist, arranger, singer, guitarist, and violinist Caroline Calen, who is certainly not afraid of that question; while their music seems to be reaching out for an anglo audience (all of the songs but one have English lyrics), the vocal arrangements, often layering half a dozen parts of backing harmonies, embrace a beautiful and artful production style that is at once catchy, mystical, and enduring. The rest of the band supports Calen’s ideas and concepts well: keyboardist Antoine Geremia, electric guitarist Baptiste Mottais, drummer and percussionist Yann Pousset, and bassist Grégoire Lozach. Right out of the gate, the opening track “The Maze” sets the stage for all that follows, but it’s the second cut, “Breathe,” that moves from the extremes of soft and gentle to edgy and heavy effortlessly, with Calen’s acrobatic vocals and multi-part harmonies leading the way, bridging the powerful and complex to the artful beauty of the song. Other standouts include the dark and mysterious “Memories of My Friends,” which for the first part of the song approaches shoegaze territory before erupting like a volcano, and the drone and voice opening of “Keep a Secret,” soon joined by hand drums and sitar as it shifts gears into a world music tour-de-force. “The Stream” presents a mildly funky pop tune that builds nicely over its duration, and the album closer “Pensando en Ti,” the only non-English lyric, begins somewhere in folky territory for a couple verses before it starts building into something more substantially eclectic. The eight songs on Event Horizon are like nothing else, complex and interesting, yet completely accessible. 

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Madlen Keys

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