Kelela Take Me Apart Warp
Halfway through Kelela Mizanekristos’ long-awaited debut album comes the strikingly minimal Better. The track finds the LA-based RnB artist considering a break-up in visceral, simple terms: “Didn’t it make you better? Aren’t we better now?” she sings in that sweet, powerful voice like liquid silk, trying to justify the decision to end the relationship. It’s a beautiful song, imbued with gospel warmth, but what’s especially notable is how it’s immediately followed by the album’s lead single LMK, an anthem calling for a no-strings hook-up: “No one’s tryin’ to settle down, all you gotta do is let me know”.
The juxtaposition between falling out of love and chasing casual, insatiable sensuality (later on SOS she asks a lover to come help her touch herself) makes apparent the raw feelings and breadth of potent vulnerability within Kelela’s oeuvre – something exemplified in her bared skin on this album’s cover.
Kelela knows how to make her vocals resonate with a sound palette which feels uniquely hers. And while there’s nothing as abrasive as the beats on her acclaimed 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me, Take Me Apart retains her proclivity for the left-field, bubbling with 90s and 00s-style futurism via delicate touches of sino-grime. Alongside producers Jam City and Arca, The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft, Kelsey Lu and Terror Danjah have all contributed to the album’s creation, and there’s a real sense of considered curation throughout.
The vision of Kelela’s earlier releases has been fully realised on Take Me Apart, albeit in a subtler, more nuanced, dreamlike way than you might have expected back on, say, a track like Guns & Synths. Take Me Apart isn’t always immediately gratifying, but in being loud in its vulnerability (and quietly radical for it), Kelela’s first album is a powerful addition to the feminist, futurist RnB canon.