Six years after the release of her stunning Take Me Apart, Kelela has returned with her second studio album, Raven, an innovative record that oscillates between R&B, improvisational jazz and the pulsing tempos of club music. Aiding Kelela’s quest for a club-ready sound is producer LSDXOXO, who provides pulsing rhythms laden with breakbeats and heavy basslines on tracks like “Happy Ending” and “Contact”, while ambient duo OCA’s dreamy and reverb-drenched synths on opener “Washed Away” is the perfect foundation for Kelela’s spacey, soulful pop.
If 2017’s Take Me Apart, her first full album, explored the emotional mechanics of a break-up and new love, then Raven is about the power of healing, as symbolised by the recurring symbol of water. “Far away, washed away,” opens the record, and in doing so ties the album’s first and last songs “Washed Away” and “Far Away” together in a neat circle. According to Kelela, this conveys “wonder and discovery”, but also the transient nature of life, which is aided by Raven’s continuous flow – there are no harsh changeovers, only tracks that roll into each other like ocean tides. On “Fooley”, beats patter like water droplets as reverb splashes out the speakers and the sound of pouring water connects us to the beginning of the following track “Holier”.
“I really want to be sexy in a nuanced way,” Kelela told the New York Timesin a recent interview. Submerging us deep into her sonic world, Raven is a sensual listening experience, touching on complex themes of lust, isolation and anticipation, and revealing more with every listen.
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