Kelela: Take Me Apart

The lifecycle of a relationship, from its inception to the post-breakup remorse, is chronicled throughout alternative and experimental R&B singer-songwriter, Kelela’s, debut record, Take Me Apart. Released on London-based Warp Records, Take Me Apart is a sensual dive into the deepest and most glacial moments in and out of a relationship, with instrumentals plucked straight from 2038.

Kelela’s catalogue is ripe with fruits of hard labor, from her 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me, and her 2015 Hallucinogen EP. Cut 4 Me showcased Kelela’s traditionally R&B voice layered over brooding, sensual beats that catapulted her into the spotlight of anyone with an eye out for sparkling melodies and oddball industrial-tinged production. The Hallucinogen EP brought along collaborations with previous producers, Jam City and Bok Bok, as well as experimental electronic producer, Arca, who shows up again on a few tracks on her debut.

Take Me Apart is loosely structured as a full exploration of what it means to fall out of a relationship, beginning, unlike most things, at the end. Album opener, Frontline’s initially moody bassline explodes into a future-trap (not Future) track about independence post-breakup and self-reliance. Kelela utters on the bridge that she’s “coming up with the sun around [her]” as a triumphant announcement of her arrival – everything seems to be against her, but she knows her come up is on the horizon.
Tracks like “Waitin” and “Better” are self-aware cuts that read like a diary entry written directly to an ex that you’ll never send. “Waitin” narrates an all-too-familiar encounter of seeing an ex-lover for the first time since you’ve parted ways, knowing you’d be down to go home together one last time. The track boasts a glittery instrumental and influences of Janet Jackson are more present than ever.

Being simultaneously sexually free while remaining in control is a focal message of the record, especially present on lead single and album centerpiece, “LMK.” The track’s glitchy 90s club-jumping instrumental with a playful soda can sample encompass the entire sonic journey of the album. In the second verse, she asks: “Did you think you’re my ride home babe? / ‘Cause my girls are parked outside,” setting an example for her audience that asserting your intentions can be empowering, but to never let someone else feel they hold power over you in a vulnerable position.

Kelela’s start in the music industry was not a traditional one, but her seamless integration into the public eye has been an inspiring journey. Beginning as an academic, she fell into being a professional singer and producer a little later than the average, in her late 20s, by way of a connecting with artists that inspired her. This debut record’s creation was a process overseen by Kelela as a powerful, self-made woman. The friendships formed with long-time producers are effortlessly present under the surface of Take Me Apart. Kelela has proved herself an excellent songstress by guiding her producers towards a foggy outline of a song, finally presenting it to the public when the once-dream feels tangible.

The triplet of tracks, “Truth Or Dare,” S.O.S.,” and “Blue Light” are flirtatious soirées exploring Kelela’s intimate desires over three sonically independent instrumentals that when experienced consecutively, paint like a hand running down a steamy bathroom mirror. “Blue Light” finds Kelela asserting her desire to rendezvous with her lover over an instrumental steeped in a grimey backlit haze.

Take Me Apart showcases the wide array of sonic themes that Kelela is able to melt into. Expansive, spacey tracks like “Enough” and “Turn to Dust” lay directly next to tracks like post-dubstep “Onanon,” encapsulating the entire purpose of the record – the emotional complexities of the human experience are all valid opportunities to create and reflect upon those feelings. The strength presented in Take Me Apart, in both the emotions present and in the body of work as a whole, solidifies Kelela as an innovative powerhouse in the industry.

Recommended If You Like: Solange, FKA Twigs, Arca, The Internet, ABRA
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Frontline), 4 (Enough), 6 (Better), 7 (LMK), 10 (Blue Light), 12 (Turn to Dust)
Do Not Play: 1 (Frontline), 2 (Waitin), 10 (Blue Light), 11 (Onanon)
Written by Scott Knettle on 11/14/2017