Kelela: Take Me Apart

- The opening moments of US r’n’b artist Kelela’s debut full-length, Take Me Apart, features some delicious synthwave production, on the cut Frontline. It could be Boards Of Canada, although it’s -as you might expect- Jam City, a producer from the Night Slugs roster, just one of many from that stable on which Kelela has relied for beats ever since she borrowed a whole bunch of their material to coat with syrupy r’n’b sugar on her highly regarded mixtape, Cut 4 Me. Suddenly the trap snares kick in, scraping across the deliciously smooth production. You may not be tired of trap, but it’s absolutely important to note that one of the key features of Take Me Apart and Kelela as a musician, is that most of what happens here is nothing like that.

I’m mostly in love with the production on this record. Even the trap, really, it’s used in a -contemporarily almost impossible- tasteful moderation. As I hinted above, it’s the work of a who’s-who of darkly interesting producers, many UK names from Night Slugs and some US ones from Fade To Mind. There’s many you’d know, like Arca or Kwes and many others really worth getting to know. Similarly, there’s a welcome diversity of styles: the record liquidly mixes bass music, ambience, idm, vaporwave, synthwave and, lest we forget, r’n’b.

That’s important, given the array of -mostly male- talent underpinning what’s on offer here, you could easily fall into that old trap of saying electronic music = music made be blokes. Or at least you might if Kelela wasn’t such a commanding presence. This is some of the most spine-tingling r’n’b I’ve heard in a long time: as darkly emotive as Banks but more energetically diverse; as surprisingly experimental as FKA Twigs but with songwriting that is less coldly cerebral, more libidinal, instinctual. I’d go as far as to say she has a voice that’s as balletic as The Weeknd but thank god she’s so much more tasteful in her musical choices. It’s easy to understand why Kelela has been getting nods from folks like Solange and Björk.

Even just that first mixtape was probably enough to prove the merit of Kelela and that judgement was already confirmed, a couple of years ago, on her Hallucinogen EP. Take Me Apart is -even the trap- pretty much exactly as good I expected from an artist who is delivering the best r’n’b of 2017.

- Chris Cobcroft.

 

Album Details

Album Title: Take Me Apart
Artist: Kelela
Record Label: (Warp / Inertia)