Fergus Kelly's Metallic Mantras

About a month ago I was surfing the web and stumbled upon a small run Cdr label by the name of Room Temperature. I can't remember a link I might have followed to arrive at it's doorstep or how at all I actually came across it. Lucky for me that I did, because the work of the label's founder and sole proprietor Fergus Kelly has reignited my lust for what I have come to refer to as, the metallic mantra. Bowed steel rods, sheet metal bellows and tactile scrapes, pangs, churns, and whirls slowly unravel in the man's work, rarely revealing their true identities, but more importantly working as a symbiotic mass, as if each source representing a limb of some many-appendaged musical body. This is music that is both raw yet precisely calculated, inducing a sculpted hypnosis that is hard to break from.

Though stylistically similar to 1980's David Jackman or early Andrew Chalk, Kelly utilizes less rudimentary methods of production and sound design for his compositions, often refurbishing raw recorded material through digital effects and filters to achieve desired results. Maybe it's the result of advancements in musical production techniques over the last 20 years, but it seems Kelly has achieved to do what David Jackman attempted to do in the early 80's when he first conceived of and started recording compositions as Organum, which, was to create something that sounded new, and not archaic like all the Organum stuff ended up sounding like anyway (not that that was a bad thing). Swarf and Fugitive Pitch are the most recent offerings on Room Temperature, in which, the interplay between the unfettered material and how the end product is actually spliced and rearranged, varies in appropriation between the two releases. Thus, making it clear to me, that these are works of many hours of labour and love.


Fergus Kelly
Swarf, 3" mini cd
Parts I-IV, 2009

Attempting to pack 4 tracks in a mere 21 minutes can be a creatively daunting task, as temporal limitations can so easily result in compositional suffocation. Fortunately, Swarf avoids such potential tragedies by allowing just enough space for these choruses to breathe and uncoil; although personally I would have remained just as attentive if all of these tracks were twice as long. Kelly's bowing of 6 foot steel rods mounted to a steel sheet resonator serves as a testament to just how potent and hypnotic improvising can really get. The trance inducing quality of these tracks is in no small part due to the fact that this work is a culmination of 20-30 second loops of various recordings of the bowed rods, cross faded, blended and then left to stand the test of time. As alive as these tracks are, Kelly can rest assured that miles down that winding road, Swarf will most certainly stand tall.

Fergus Kelly
Fugitive Pitch cdr

Fugitive Pitch is a work between Fergus Kelly and frequent collaborator David Lacey, created from recordings made in cellars underneath Henrietta Street In Dublin, Ireland. From it's manumit beginnings it's immediately clear that this is a much different, much darker, affair than Swarf. The distant sounds of rattling metals squirm like rats scurrying to not be seen, punctuated by the lazy rhythm of some miss-shaped plastic drum while a vat full of offal static bubbles to the surface. A seriously dark, pulled-apart heart throbs through the center of the album, sustaining life for these miscreant sounds. Though the album maintains a dark sheath through it's entirety, the ominous walls do occasionally part, revealing pockets of a filmy gossamer sub-layer, where we're given fleeting glimpses of the mechanical workings of this beast. The tightly knit framework in and around these 9 tracks allows for punctuated transitions executed to utmost precision, warranting many revealing listens and high praise. Quite lovely indeed.

Fergus Kelly is a Dublin based visual & sound artist/improviser. Working in photography, painting and releasing music via his Room Temperature label.

Room Temperature

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