On Raven, Kelela builds her nest from cascading synthesisers and tight drums.
‘Washed Away’ immediately submerges us. Slow, repeating melodies against reverbed vocal riffing set a clear, tidal direction for the album. Throughout, this style is revisited to varying degrees of success. On tracks such as ‘Holier’, Kelela’s attempt leaves little lasting impression on the listener. Her execution of this style is significantly improved in ‘Divorce’, in which a plucked bass melts softly into a chorus of synthetic strings and vocals. Listening, you are immersed in a deep sonic cavern around which Kelela’s voice echoes. The last track, ‘Far Away’, also parallels the liquid soundscape of the opening, closing the thematic loop of the album and is monumental in its realisation.
‘Let It Go’ offers smooth keys and a silky bassline with distant percussive hits ricocheting off the cushioning Kelela lays out. This laidback instrumental gives room for her impassioned vocals. The song evokes the scene of a spacey R&B lounge that finds itself adjacent to a 90s throwback DJ set. ‘On The Run’ greets us with rippling chords and bulbous beats that underpin the mix. ‘Fooley’ swallows the listener whole with its leviathan lower end penetrated only by Kelela’s harmonies, sailing chords and bubbling percussion. ‘Raven’ provides portamentos crescendoing with electronic stabs that decompose into a danceable pulse, moving with a scattering bassline. ‘Sorbet’ is a deeply romantic slow build. Subtle beginnings enliven through shimmering synthesisers to a grooving rhythm.
At times on Raven, Kelela dispels the cloudy ambience with more piercing percussion. ‘Happy Ending’ follows the oceanic opening track with a skipping melody and repetitive beat that wear thin much sooner than intended. ‘Missed Call’ contains decent drum and bass sections ruined by an insufferable guitar loop. Subsequently, on ‘Closure’, sweeping bit-crushed bells supported by deep, punchy bass and rocking drums win big. ‘Contact’ hits the palette like leftovers; generic percussion and swaying synths stagnate throughout its duration. ‘Bruises’ is Kelela getting it just right. A thumping beat, weary synths and synthetic bells all give a sense of immediacy that mesmerises you. ‘Enough for Love’ does not innovate but does not fail to entertain.
Overall, Kelela’s Raven lives up to the cover art, transporting the listener to her hydrous domain as she meditates on separation, introspection, and relationships over pristine and cavernous instrumentals.
Image: “Kelela” by nucky b is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.