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Kelela "Raven" Album Review

She disappeared when the world needed her most. We patiently awaited for her to return and six years later, she did not disappoint. Raven is an otherworldly listening experience, when you combine Kelela's divine, airy vocals with soft rave-inspired music, the result is ascending to a higher place. Waves of drum 'n bass float through the album effortlessly as Kelela's graceful vocals caress the beats supplied by the likes of Kaytranada, LSDXOXO and BAMBII to name a few. On this record Kelela contemplates love, lust and the inability to detach from someone you're connected to. She also mentions being far away multiple times on the album, symbolising being alone and distant - which when you think about it, aligns perfectly with how she's been absent from music for the past six years.

We enter her world with 'Washed Away', the production elicits this feeling of waves washing over you and the slow pace and gorgeous belts from Kelela allow the atmosphere to build and encapsulating solitude. As the drums on 'Happy Ending' build tension and Kelela's smooth vocals float through the abyss of the beat, she pines about a love that could've been but never was - 'Always knew we could've been something'. 'Let It Go' is an amalgamation of sombre keys, funky guitar and various futuristic synths. She stacks her vocals and whispers in places, giving the track more texture and range.

Sirens sound the start of 'On The Run' as the kaleidoscopic beats quiver underneath Kelela's silky vocals. There's a subtle dancehall rhythm that floats through this song, supplied by BAMBII's co-production alongside Kaytranada, Asma Maroof, Yo Van Lenz and Kelela herself. 'Missed Call' sees BAMBII team up with LSDXOXO & Brandon Peralta to deliver breakbeat meets rave music production as Kelela contemplates "Might be the time to make that call / Start to text, I hit a road / Do I wanna fall in love again?"

The ascending chords that loop on 'Closure' evokes a climbing feeling but because it's a loop it's always starting at the same place which aligns with the sentiment of the song, when neither of you want to let go, or are unable to. 'Put the sword down, you can't fight it / If you front row, I'll put on a show' - these lyrics are admitting that her and her lover are unable to resist each other. The song drifts into this trance-like, seductive lapdance of a beat. Rahrah Gabor's verse is a standout on the album, with bars like 'I'm a grown ass woman, not a pickney / Got good knees, I'ma ride it like a six-speed' that she raps with cadence as slick as lip gloss.

Her verse adds more dimension to Kelela's ethereal soundscape as her hard hitting cadence contrasts Kelela's lush tones.

The jungle rhythm of 'Contact' combined with the avant-garde element production make it reminiscent of doing drugs in a rave, the euphoria can be heard in the sound waves. The scene is really set as she sings 'We're party to party, it's late but we're wide awake / The bass in my body, I'm sinking it's so wide' affirming the club-like stratosphere of which 'Raven' takes place in. It also samples the drums from 'Think (About It)' by Lyn Collins, which gives it that soft drum 'n bass feel.

The beat on 'Fooley' swings like a pendulum in distortion as Kelela's filtered vocals glide over the production. Again, the vocal texture on this track is exquisitely layered.

The title track 'Raven' is another slow builder, the synths welcome in her soft voice as she croons about not being broken by anyone who's tried. The pace of this track stays quite still until the club drum loops take the forefront in the final minute, evolving into bassline club music. It seamlessly transitions into 'Bruises', the rave rhythms continue as Kelela sings harmoniously atop of the bounce.

'Sorbet' personifies that feeling of melting into each other when making love. Her slow, airy vocals give it a sensual movement as they drift between the sounds of stars colliding.

'Enough for Love' embodies the push and pull of an off and on again relationship. She expresses over the enchanting production - 'I'm holdin' on so tight / But you can't free-ride for longer' - that she's the only one putting in the effort and she won't stand for it anymore.

'Far Away' closes the work of art that is Kelela's latest. This track is possibly one of her best vocal performances on the album as her vocalisations on this track bless the ears of the listener - what she does with her voice here is purely stunning and her vocals disperse into the production flawlessly.

'Raven' is just over an hour of being transported into another realm. Her elegant vocals seduce you into the blissful soundscape that feels like the inside of a rave after you've just come up after taking Molly. Her producers have gelled so well together with her and each other to create this audible experience of ecstasy. The up tempo tracks on the record are sure to go platinum on club DJs' USBs. Quite a few tracks bare simple lyrics in a minimal amount which allow the production to wrap up her vocals like a warm blanket. Her vocals are always the calm in the chaos - the good kind, of course - meaning that while the production might be underlined with drum n bass, her voice gives each track a sense of tranquility.


Review written by Kat Friar

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