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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Album review: Kelela's Take Me Apart is a record for grown-ups

It has been a long road for Kelela, having variously sung progressive metal and jazz standards, before finding her direction and releasing this debut album

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Kelela performs onstage at the 2017 Budweiser Made in America Festival - Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Zachary Mazur/FilmMagic)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 03: Kelela performs onstage at the 2017 Budweiser Made in America Festival - Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Zachary Mazur/FilmMagic)

Among the plethora of guest voices on this year’s Gorillaz album Humanz, Washington-born singer Kelela’s was one of the most striking. But far from the stuffy policy-making of her birthplace, the politics within the 34-year-old’s future-facing R&B have a far more personal slant.

It has been a long road for Kelela, having variously sung progressive metal and jazz standards, before finding her direction and releasing this debut album, but the latter genre’s spirit is certainly writ larger across Take Me Apart. There are also undeniable echoes of British peer FKA Twigs in the sliced-up, self-harmonised vocals and arrhythmic beats. And it is those unconventional sounds that undoubtedly attracted the attention of her record label, Warp, the home of such electronic pioneers as Aphex Twin.

The perspective-flipping dynamics employed by FKA Twigs are present here, too: Enough sees her pleading with a beau who won’t leave their partner, but elsewhere, she is very much in control of her own destiny.

There are parallels to be drawn with the carnal overtones of The Weeknd in the title track, while SOS evolves from dreamy synths and finger-snap backing rhythms into a wide-screen, wide-eyed statement of come-hither intent. Two-and-a-half minutes is all that she requires to make her point felt.

Single LMK – text speak for Let Me Know, for those not living in the emojiverse – is the most pop moment here, although for all its catchiness, it somehow ends up as a little bland compared to the songs that surround it.

Where much futuristic R&B is at the whims of excitable youthful urges, you feel that Kelela has reached a stage in her life where she has the confidence to sidestep games and childish messing around. Take Me Apart is a grown-up record, in every sense of the term.

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