To date, Kali Malone’s albums have felt more like commemorations of live events than free-standing musical objects. All Life Long, however, has a greater sense of its own agency than hitherto: the 12 pieces here, written for choir, brass ensemble or pipe organ, feature recurring patterns that echo off each other as the album progresses, and a single-sitting listening is rewarded with a sense of monolithic completion, and a consequently satisfying calm.
Also unusually for Malone’s work, melody and pulse are in (relative) abundance, leaving All Life Long occasionally resembling the distant evolutionary cousin of first-wave techno: the title track in particular, despite only being played on the organ, with no percussion, has a repetition and implied bpm that evokes a darkened subterranean club, and it’s easy to reimagine the deceptively simple parallel chord progressions reproduced on burbling synths.
Elsewhere, though, in its stately, melancholic harmonic shifts, All Life Long is also reminiscent of ancient devotional music, encouraging a reflective stillness lightyears from any dancefloor, and often daringly so: when Malone leaves the final chords of pieces to play for extended durations (beyond three minutes in the case of ‘No Sun To Burn’), a hypnotic fog rolls in, creating a sort of radical depthlessness for the listener to investigate, or maybe space to reflect on the track just gone.
It makes for Malone’s least extreme and most welcoming album yet. Despite a potentially daunting 78-minute runtime, All Life Long is a surprisingly easy listen: inviting, contemplative and sonically rich, the sound of complexity unpacked for all to understand.