23rd June sees electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist Inwards releasing the ‘All The Things You Left Behind’ album, which is the first body of work to emerge on his own label, the newly founded Rainbow Bridge, and builds on a flurry of singles lifted from the record in the preceding months.
Across two previous albums and several EPs to date, Worcestershire-based artist Inwards – AKA Kristian Shelley – has captivated fans and tastemakers with his unshakable melodies and playfully edgy yet deep and emotive productions that draw on found sounds, modular synths, and myriad electronic and acoustic instruments. Along the way, the prolific creator has amassed an archive of unreleased recordings, and it’s from this vault that the new album is drawn, unearthing nine captivating pieces of music which had been “left behind” but whose time has come to see the sunlight.
His distinctive style has earned Inwardsnumerous champions. MOJO magazine gave his 2020 second album ‘Bright Serpent’ a glowing 4* review to go alongside press takes from Resident Advisor, The Independent, Electronic Sound, Clash, DUMMY, The 405 and more. BBC 6 Music (incl Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Tom Ravenscroft, Don Letts, Stuart Maconie), Radio X (John Kennedy), and BBC Introducing (Radio 1 & regional), have given him heavy airtime in the UK, with Selector Radio, Soho Radio, Foundation FM, KCRW and NPR also supporting, among others; while he has also graced high profile DSP playlists. He has also played incredibly well-received live sets, often with an immersive visual element.
The slow-brewed nature of this album belies the instinctive and often urgent way in which Shelley approaches his music-making: channelling emotions in the heat of the moment, laying down a vivid, cathartic sonic snapshot of his state of mind, and revisiting later to embellish or refine only if and when the mood strikes. But, paradoxically, it is this same process which led to him building up such a vast cache of material from which this album could be curated. In a neat twist, a characteristically playful tangling of thematic threads, Inwards fans will notice that this album’s very apt title – All The Things You Left Behind – is also the title of a previous Inwards track (the opener to his recent “Feeling So Fun Reality” EP).
Setting the tone for a record of more meditative and introspective pieces of music from Inwards, ‘All The Things…’ album opener “Woods” was made in a single grey rainy afternoon, with sounds recorded out the window of the log cabin where Shelley lives, and is given an extra meandering quality from two main riffs that layer in unusual ways: “I think it’s called polymeric structure or something, as it repeats at the phrase level – I don’t really know – I’ll leave that to the nerds to figure out”, says Shelley. The pastel-toned “Tunnel” brings a gentle, journeying energy, introducing a jaunty hook – a melodic trajectory that is then subverted and warped by a sonic hall-of-mirrors effect in “Riffin’ At 86”,a compelling Ableton experiment that saw Shelley, in his words, “almost breaking speakers and ear drums with jumpy levels”.
The hypnotic “Retrograde” captures a moment of escapism carved out among the cacophony of a time spent both living and working at The Prince Albert pub/venue in Brighton. We’re then whisked back to a whole different domestic setup in “Uu+me” (c2014, he guesses)which Shelley made at his family’s home while playing with a new zoom recorder; it glows with cosy sounds, from his dog breathing, to family members talking about turkey dinners and hearing aids, to the ticking of a kitchen clock (which he pitched to fit in with the drumbeat, in a triumphant experiment). A favourite track of his, “Leavin” – a live synth jam with viola and piano added later – channels the freedom of emerging from a tough break-up and celebrating time alone. The modular synth-led “Pipedream” comes from the same sessions as his hugely popular early single “When She Flashes Her Smile On Me”, and carries the same colourful, trippy energy. “On The Inside” was crafted in 2016 when he moved back to Worcestershire from Brighton, in a makeshift studio on his mum’s living room table; his drive to create overriding the limitations of his setup, he somehow built what he describes as a “weird emotional industrial banger” around recordings of his boss explaining how to install a Velux rooflight in a log cabin. We close with “Custard”, a moody piano jam paired with shifty, impelling breaks, and a chopped-up vocal that Shelley doesn’t remember the origin of – possibly due to the track being made during a spell of intense creative all-nighters.
Shelley elaborates on the concept of this album: “The songs were chosen from what we refer to as the Inwards Archives – basically a playlist with in the region of 150 unreleased Inwards tracks on. These tracks range from songs made in different times and places over the last decade, from 2013 right up until last year. We felt that it’s important to release some of these tunes that are growing older, and share them with the world”, says Shelley.
He continues: “It’s a weird concept thinking about it. These are all tunes that I felt did not fit onto previous Inwards records, for one reason or another. So now, let’s put them on an Inwards record! Some of these songs are really interesting for me to listen to now. I expect that we will follow this record up with more collections of unreleased Inwards tunes, maybe an endless amount of “All The Things…” volumes. In the meantime, new tunes are being made and forming brand new Inwards records, and the ones that slip through the cracks that I think are not quite fitting with the new Inwards sound at the time, will fall into the Inwards Archives, maybe gather some dust for a few years, and then make it out into the world as fully formed tunes when their time comes.”
Fittingly, with this record’s theme of cultivating new beginnings from deep roots, the new Rainbow Bridge label is a collaborative venture between Kristian Shelley and Vlad Matveikov, the head honcho of Brighton-based music company Small Pond and a long-time champion of Inwards’ music (having recently announced that the Small Pond label arm is winding up operations after several years of impeccable, eclectic and exciting releases and heavy support across the media in the UK and beyond).