WPGM Recommends: Kelela – Raven (Album Review)

It has been a great pleasure to have been graced with the presentation of her second studio album titled, Raven. It has been 6 long years since Kelela Mizanekristos’ last album. At the time, the last of us 90s kids were finishing high school and many of us were carried to the finish line with Take Me Apart as the soundtrack to our lives.

During that time Kelela had not only been quiet musically but her general online presence seemed to have taken a backseat. The hiatus was felt and so when her single, “washed away” popped up on YouTube, Instagram, Apple Music, and platforms alike, it was as though we had been reunited with an old and familiar friend.

The entirety of Raven didn’t feel like music or like I was listening to music at all, instead after listening to it many times over, I felt that Raven was more of a feeling than anything. Instead of listening to the music, it was as though, I were receiving it as an actual feeling and so it complimented whichever headspace I was in.

This experience is something I was grateful for because it fell in line with the consistent atmosphere of her work. Even though the break was long, we still meet Kelela as the same person but as a musician who had grown and shifted more into herself so that the growth didn’t feel like something that would take a while to digest.

The first song on the album, “Washed Away”, introduces an interesting spatial placement of her vocals that we would we hear in many songs down the line. This production makes it so that her voice sounds both near and far, in this direction and that, as if she were singing in a large empty room.

When she sings “The hope, the light, fade away, blurry-eyed – riding out on metal rays – moving on a change of pace – and I’m far away”, it almost speaks directly to the essence of what the anticipation as well as what the release of the album felt like.

Other songs that allow you to appreciate the spatial effects in her music are “Fooley” and “Holier”. These songs have this aspect in common, but they contrast each other greatly in mood and tone, with “Washed Away” being a smoother sound than “Fooley” with its electronic tone, and “Holier” with its ominous ambiance, that makes you feel as though you are being sung to by an unknown entity.

“Happy Ending”, the second song on the album, reminds us why we all came to be fans of Kelela. The electronic influence shines right through and so the upbeat nature of the song makes it impossible not to imagine yourself dancing vigorously under some strobe lights. There are many songs that give off a 90’s pop and electronic experience, these include “Raven”, “Missed Call”, and “Contact”.

Unlike “Hallucinogen” and “Take Me Apart”, I cannot say that I have a favourite song from this album, but the one I was really in awe of was “Bruises”. This song took me by surprise because of the house music elementals that wrapped themselves around her voice. Not only had Kelela taken us through her R&B, electronic and pop appreciations she also explored the flavour of what and how house music can be amongst those genres.

This was an experience to write home about, an experience from one of the many artists who take apart the dividing idea that there is a distinction between white and black music. As per usual, she proves to us the power of appreciating music universally and the ability to become one with the things that consume.

Listen to Kelela’s Raven album below and stream it everywhere else here.

Words by Kimberleigh Campher

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