Reviews

Kelela “Raven” Album Review

Raven

Kelela

  • Genre: R&B/Soul
  • Date: 10 Feb, 2023
  • Content: Not-explicit
  • Region: USA
  • Track(s): 15
  • ℗ 2023 Warp Records

Kelela’s ecstatic second album is a stunning show of tension and release, highlighting queer Black womanhood through blasts of fiery dance music and dreamy comedowns. Kelela’s vaporous body music has become a distinct force in the six years since the seminal ‘Take Me Apart.’ Kelela’s album, ‘Raven,’ is her second studio album. Warp Records released it on February 10, 2023, and It comes six years after Kelela’s debut album, ‘Tear Me Apart,’ which was named one of the greatest albums of 2017 by critics.

Album Cover

Kelela &Quot;Raven&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, May 23, 2024

The album art is simple but has many illustrations explaining what Kelela is trying to depict. A face is seen about to go underwater in a pool of something dark and sinister. This art seems to hint at the dark place she admitted to being in a while making the album. She isn’t afraid to show her weakness and tries to draw strength from the experiences surrounding her life, even as it seems she is sinking without help.

Tracks And FeaturesKelela &Quot;Raven&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, May 23, 2024

The 15-track album opens with “Washed Away” and has lyrics written by Janiva Ellis. “Happy Ending” and “Let It Go” comes in after and have Ellis again on writing duties for “Let It Go.”

“Contact,” a midpoint highlight, layers Kelela’s exquisite melodies over a scuffed jungle beat and twisted synths, leading to a Dionysian rush of desire. Raven thrives in such simple dance memories. “On the Run” is powered by a dewy dancehall groove, which is an excellent fit for Kelela’s self-assured, sexual come-ons. The breakbeats and fast guitar that propel “Missed Call,” in keeping with a recent wave of musicians working with ’90s dance characteristics, lend a boost to the album’s first half. Kelela enlisted OCA, Yo van Lenz, and Florian T M Zeisig’s ambient duo to create a more calm, soul-bearing afterglow.

Glassy synths and a buzzing bassline offer Kelela a space to explore “Divorce,” co-written with Shygirl and figurative painter Janiva Ellis, providing one of the most tranquil vocal performances on the album for an expression of brittle self-reflection. Meanwhile, the dreamy “Holier” is drowned in muted, rattling bass, with sparse synth notes weaving in and out around Kelela’s clear-eyed resolve: “Though it troubles my heart/Don’t want to cover the scar,” She sings as if she’s floating in space. “So I go where they hold me down.”

It’s one of several times on the album that talks about developing self-care through standing in and with the community that grounds you when you need it the most. It’s one of several times on the album that talks about developing self-care through standing in and with the community that grounds you when you need it the most.

On the standout two-hander “Closure,” she sings in an ethereal falsetto over plucked tones and a warped undertow about still holding on to a needling infatuation after being ghosted before a guest verse from Newark rapper Rahrah Gabor, who injects the song with a slick, instantly memorable jolt of energy.

Kelela is a master of tension and release, delivering a burst of propulsive bliss before softly ebbing away. The dazzling “Sorbet” is the most precise illustration of the latter, all slow-motion passion with airy backing voices and a fascinating, whirling beat.

Raven’s axis points are “Washed Away” and “Far Away,” boosted by Kelela’s improvisatory vocals and a booming synth line that compose a beatific plea. The listening Journey is closed by “Far Away” as the instrumentation, and the lyrics come into a sublime blend and leave the listener in a cocoon of emotions as the song fades to an end.

Tracklist

NO

TITLE

TIME

1 Washed Away 3:36
2 Happy Ending 4:08
3 Let It Go 4:22
4 On the Run 4:52
5 Missed Call 3:51
6 Closure 3:29
7 Contact 4:00
8 Fooley 3:34
9 Holier 4:14
10 Raven 4:36
11 Bruises 4:15
12 Sorbet 5:29
13 Divorce 3:21
14 Enough for Love 4:25
15 Far Away 4:21

Album Summary

Raven’s creative sound is brought to life by a team of electronic producers and like-minded individuals: Asmara of Nguzunguzu, LSDXOXO, Bambii, Kaytranada, Junglepussy, and other collaborators add twisting rhythms from drum N bass, garage, Baltimore club, and different strains of Black electronic music to the album.

Kelela’s music is soul hydration, enticing and relatable even as she refines and evolves her sound. Likewise, Raven’s all-encompassing atmosphere can lure you in, but it’s much greater if you lose yourself.

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