Elizabeth Joan Kelly Farewell, Doomed Planet! (Album Review)

Elizabeth Joan Kelly has specialized for the better part of a decade now in creating ambient “background” music designed to create a low-key uncomfortable restlessness—she titled one such collection “Music for the DMV”—but that’s not the only reason to avoid playing her latest at your next family gathering. On this disc, the climate apocalypse is not just closed to debate but has in fact already occurred, leaving a Waterworld-like planet that’s really just one big junk-filled swimming pool. Well, except for the advanced sea creatures. And the mutated wolves. Thanks, Chernobyl!

Much like Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” which swapped space-rock for whale sounds without batting an eye, Kelly excels at blurring the line between the vast gulf of space and the actual oceans creeping into our collective backyard. The found-sound samples –and there are tons, all cleared for fair use and most made by nature—are expertly layered along with Kelly’s own modulated vocals and waveform manipulations into one giant yawning chasm. Whether ambient like the perfectly descriptive “Whaliens” or darkwave like “Trinity Quadrant Cantata” or industrial like “Baleen Executioner” or recalling vintage ’80s synth-pop like “Departure,” nearly backing up into dubstep on “Unusual Capsule” or some mixture of all of the above as with the closing “Beau Travail,” this soundtrack for humans leaving one desolate expanse for another is disquieting yet oddly peaceful, in a way only nature can be.