The art of sculpture has always fascinated me. How someone can turn an abstract block of marble, stone or wood into a vision of their own making, is something wonderful to behold. Watching Maria Kelly grow as a songwriter over the years has been like observing that very process. Her debut album, The Sum Of The In-Between, is the result of carving, cutting and sanding down her music until we’re left with an unflinching self-portrait.
Maria Kelly has always been a brave songwriter, unafraid to bare her soul and examine places other artists may be afraid of. The Sum Of The In-Between is undaunted by preconceptions of emotional fragility. Opening with the striking sound collage of ‘Panic’, Kelly establishes not only the record’s sonic palette but also the core themes of confronting anxiety and self-doubt.
In ‘Track 1’, the abstract becomes intimate, as lines like “now I’m 23, fucking look at me, I can’t hold a conversation without lying” are delivered through lo-fi folk closeness before opening into a handcrafted piece surrounded by woven strings. This deftly shaped sonic milieu carries throughout The Sum Of The In-Between, as the low light setting of ‘eight hours’ melds lyrical twists like “I spend all night, losing my own fight” within a soft-spoken musical honesty. While “like I used to” wraps heart-wrenching isolation and longing around expressionistic songwriting. Likewise, “1bed” perfectly mirrors this tension in tone and theme, as honed self-reflection and performance build in intensity.
However, ‘Martha’ captures the imagination the most. Bookended by the critical thematic thread of voice messages from supportive friends, the song reveals The Sum Of The In-Between as an album with no distance between audience and artist. Caught within a precisely formed production, the music texturally moves around sharp turns of phrase, such as “I’m not where I thought I’d be now. Can’t swim, can’t drown. I’m not where I thought I’d be now.” This melding of sound and expression allows Kelly to be heard on multiple levels, as both words and music contain the same meaning.
And so it goes, the block of marble was delivered, and the artist has carved and shaped what they feel. The Sum Of The In-Between is an album that only Maria Kelly could make. Every word, sound and harmony is wrapped in its creator, and in turn, she is bound within it. There is no artifice, only openness. A debut that delivers on everything that’s proceeded it, The Sum Of The In-Between is as powerful as it is delicately tempered.