To many, What’s Between will be viewed simply as the debut solo album by Irish singer songwriter James Kelly aka WIFE, but to fans of the critically acclaimed metal band Altar of Plagues, this album marks the return of a much admired talent. As front man in Altar of Plagues, James Kelly was lauded for creating some of the most innovative music to emerge out of the metal scene in recent years, partly ushering in the mainstreaming of black metal. After the release of their critically acclaimed and widely renowned third album, which many viewed as a creative high point for the group, they surprised everyone and disbanded soon afterwards. Partly due to Kelly’s feeling that they had reached their apex as a band, Kelly embarked on what would become a very different project as WIFE.
Produced with The Haxan Cloak, who released last year’s acclaimed and extreme electronic record Excavation, as well as with live and cult hero Roly Porter, What’s Between is a highly ambitious solo debut by an artist boldly navigating outside of their comfort zone. It is out now on Tri Angle Records.
What’s Between is a disorientating and splintered pop record that finds light and dark at constant odds with one another, industrial tones and throbbing techno beats clashing with elegiac pastoral atmospherics. The title is a reflection on what exists in the emotional and physical space between two people, emphasized in the album’s dualities between light and dark, aggression and softness. It’s a record in which Kelly can finally express all of the sounds that interest him, melding pop, metal and electronic into something that can only described as his take on pop music. Yet even on seemingly lighter moments the lyrics often betray their sunnier surroundings: ‘Tongue’ relates to how people present themselves as something they’re not, while ‘Heart Is A Far Light’ is about wanting someone to care about you, even if it is a lie. Throughout the record, Kelly explores the motives behind the lies we may feel compelled to tell, whether told for personal gain or simply because they are more appealing than the truth. It is his response to our ability to present ourselves as someone we are not, while first single ‘Living Joy’ is Kelly's celebratory tribute to a personal loss experienced during the albums creation.