Audio Mixer: Howie Bernstein.
Recording information: Glasgow; London; Warsaw.
For her first solo full-length since 2012's double-LP Tumult in Clouds, Polish dream pop artist Ela Orleans teamed up with trip-hop producer Howie B (known for his work with U2, Tricky, Björk, and Robbie Robertson, as well as numerous solo efforts) for a more polished departure from her previous recordings. Instead of collage-pop built from samples of dusty old records and cavernous echo, Upper Hell sports a clearer electro-pop sound. While previous albums focused on themes related to the sky and space, this one is about hell, as its title suggests, with lyrics derived from Dante's Inferno and Aleister Crowley. The album isn't all dark and gloomy, though; single "The Sky and the Ghost" has a perky rhythm and cooing vocal harmonies. "Through Me" features a slow-jam drum-machine beat reminiscent of "Sexual Healing" and backing vocals by members of the Pastels. The album's most goth moment is the Crowley-referencing "We Are One," which has a martial, dirge-like rhythm and neo-folk instrumentation. The album's two instrumentals are some of its most uptempo tracks, with "Secret Hands" riding a galloping beat and "City of Dis" shifting through a variety of electro-industrial textures. ~ Paul Simpson