Album Review: Kelela – Take Me Apart

By Sam Tornow, General Manager
[Warp; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Take Me Apart”, “Enough”, “Better”

Kelela is an artist who bides her time, waits for the perfect moment and moves with stratagem. Despite lengthy gaps in projects, Kelela’s reverberations after releases have always solidified her position in relevancy. Both of her past projects, Cut 4 Me and Hallucinogen EP have become staples without fitting under the romanticized umbrella of full-lengths. Four years after she first introduced herself, the listner is finally let in; Take Me Apart is a dense dive into the psyche of an artist who is tired of being tokenized and trampled over.

Let’s take a look at the starting lineup: the illustrious Arca, Al Shux, Jam City, Romy Madley Croft of The xx, Sabina Sciubba and Solange (who now serves as Kelela’s manager). Whoof. Let’s take no credit from Kelela though, the singer’s icy vocals prevent her from being overshadowed by the giants in the background.

Compared to previous works, Take Me Apart distances itself by the vast space it takes up. Delay and reverb drench the wonderfully complicated production, filling up what feels like an abandoned aircraft hangar. It’s the details mask the gloss of modern pop. The checkpoints of future R&B, as cliche as they may be, are fulfilled and respectably, stamped on.

Trademark sounds from the different producers and subtle switches in background production give each song a distinct environment to grow. Notably, Arca’s fingerprints can be found all over. The title track is organic, yet industrial; drills play the role of stabs and the empty space is crushed up and resampled like a piece of scrap paper, providing Kelela with the perfect sandbox to build in.

Kelela molds emotional narratives of sexual dissonance, emotional isolation and swelling hope into club sing-alongs with ease. On the absolutely bat-shit banger “Enough”, she throws her words to the wind to be swallowed up by the cavernous, production pit: “I’ve had enough right now / Hold her hand / Will your love ruin my heart?”

In a moment of transcendence, Kelela drops her voice an octave for a practice in pacing with “Better”. Not quite a ballad, not quite a fist-pounder, the track is mapped out by vocals that gently rise and fall over simple, cutoff chords. Backing vocals low in the mix trill like violins and paint the vast space with little markings. No other track shines the spotlight on Kelela’s gorgeous voice for so long.

Take Me Apart is best experienced continuously. The density of some tracks is less daunting when situated between the gentle synths of “Jupiter” and “Bluff”. At times, a windstorm or a straight-forward stage, the pacing only drags in the final third. But, at 53 minutes, this release is the auditory exploration listeners have been impatiently waiting for since we were first introduced.

Listen here:

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