On her debut full-length, Kelela tackles the ghosts of her past love and starts anew, the decadent opener ‘Frontline’ beautifully capturing the angst that comes with moving on. Retaining the grit and cold effect electronics that defined her breakthrough mixtape ‘Cut 4 Me’, Kelela becomes the siren, scorned but braced for impact, the garage-inflected ‘Onanon’, hitting you in the proverbial with its lush, programmed melancholia.
Much of ‘Take Me Apart’ takes the listener through familiar tropes - female autonomy, sexual awakening and despondent love - yet it strikes a different chord, the LP whizzing by with a breathless urgency mapped out by the stellar production of premier collaborators Arca and Jam City, who understand the delicate contours of Kelela’s voice.
Kelela’s delivery, at times silky and willowy, other times hardened by effects, harks back to the intonation of ’90s R&B leading ladies and their affinity for carnal desire. Kelela’s phrasing, melodies, and the way she stacks her harmonies is a welcome respite from the full-throated, abrasive style of her peers. This coupled with the druggy drone and undulating bass on tracks like ‘Blue Light’ means Kelela treads new ground unlike anything in music today - cavernous, avant-garde R&B that moves the body and heals the broken heart.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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