The Greek duo behind the latest incarnation of Keep Shelly in Athens might have you believe the band's name is an allusion to an actual real world narrative, or more specifically, a geopolitical call to arms. The truth is, it's just a playful little pun. "We were born and raised in the area of Athens called Kypseli," says Notis. "So we played a bit with words: Keep Shelly in Athens (Kypseli in Athens)."
The mysterious ambient synth-pop project is currently comprised of founder and producer Notis and the group's new singer, known simply as Myrtha. Earlier this year, KSIA released their second full-length album, Now I'm Ready, via the label Friends of Friends. The album is a chill-wave audio narcotic with highly addictive properties; it should leave the listener with a strange, but pleasantly euphoric, feeling of withdrawal. The album's washed-out opener "Fractals" invites both a sense of nostalgia and that feeling you get when kissing someone for the first time.
It's Myrtha's versatile and unfettered voice that serves as the catalyst for this effect, as she dispenses with Sarah P.'s (the previous singer) Nancy Sinatra-esque crooning; instead she allows her voice to ring out without that unfortunate "out of the box" affectation that so many American female singers succumb to these days. "I loved her voice from the first minute," recalls Notis, who began his electronic music journey after listening to pioneering acts like Sabres of Paradise, Autechre, and Orbital, to name a few. "When we first met, she sent me some tracks (that were) more jazz and swing stuff, so I really wanted to see if she could fit in our tunes too. When she came to our audition, she sang an earlier song of ours "Running Out Of You." That was it!"
The band recently teamed up with FACES (a directorial collaboration between Gareth Warland and Noelle Rodrigues) to create a dreamy music video for the album's eponymous track, "Now I'm Ready," which features the musical talents of another Grecian downtempo duo, Ocean Hope. "We wanted to give the video a '70s Ektachrome feel and took influence from the beautiful films and polaroids of Tarkovsky and the photography of David Hamilton," says Warland. He decided early on to shoot the video in the 4:3 aspect ratio to recall the early films of Lars von Trier and all the anxiety and unsettling beauty he's become known for.
"We have always been big fans of female vocalists and "Now I'm Ready" is sung by a woman about a woman, so it was a natural choice for us to develop a female protagonist," notes Rodrigues, who stuck with the von Trier approach when hiring the actors and setting the tone. "We are very interested in strong female characters, so often we find ourselves building ideas around female leads."
The song's third-act builds with one of the album's most simple yet exquisite lyrics, "whisper to my soul." Based on the video's violent subject matter, one could speculate that something evil may be the one doing the whispering, but for Myrtha, this lyric does something else for her. " I think that either saying or singing these words, I feel more hopeful and optimistic towards life," she says. Right on sister.