On 2015’s acclaimed Hallucinogen EP, Kelela swept listeners along in the rush of ecstasy and the melancholic vapor trail of a hopeful, but ultimately doomed liaison. Hallucinogen would prove to be a turning point, and The New York Times would name it’s single, “Rewind”, one of the “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going”. The EP’s oversized impact would ignite a period of kinetic worldwide live shows culminating in Kelela crisscrossing the globe on tour with The xx. In parallel with this, 2016 and early 2017 would see Kelela grace a handful of crucial records as a feature vocalist – from longtime ally Solange’s majestic A Seat At The Table, to Danny Brown’s immense Atrocity Exhibition and most recently, the star-studded Humanz from Gorillaz.
These appearances would be tantalizing signs leading the way to Take Me Apart. Amplifying the ideas explored on Hallucinogen, here Kelela treats relationships and their effects like a Matryoshka doll, unveiling layer after layer to find herself at the center. Expressing an honest vision of how we navigate dissolving ties with each other and yet remain sanguine for the next chance at love, the emotional ricochet is traced across the album’s narrative. Take Me Apart stands not only as an intensely personal chronicle, but also a defiant and turbulent statement direct from Kelela; “Despite it being a personal record, the politics of my identity informs how it sounds and how I choose to articulate my vulnerability and strength. I am a black woman, a second-generation Ethiopian-American, who grew up in the ‘burbs listening to R&B, Jazz and Björk. All of it comes out in one way or another.”
The process of crafting Take Me Apart embraced the approach of widely collaborative R&B, hip-hop and pop production while roaming a strange and wonderful path. Working with a cast of peers, Kelela deconstructs many results of their collaborations and builds them back up into pieces of a cohesive whole, effectively orchestrating these multitudes in aid of her singular vision. “It’s this tapestry I’ve knitted together that attracts different types of listeners and challenges them at the same time, often within the same song. That’s what I want to bring to my entire catalogue” says Kelela. Testament to this approach, the album opens with a stunning trio of high points from the low-slung mechanized swing of ‘Frontline’ to the kaleidoscopic splendor of ‘Waitin’ – by which point you’ve been pulled straight into the tale Kelela is weaving, and the warped and chaotic beauty of the title track before dropping into ‘Enough’ which sounds as if it could have been transmitted from a neon-lit jazz club in Akira’s Neo-Tokyo.