Washington D.C.-born electronic singer-songwriter Kelela (pronounced Ka-Lel-Ah) Mizanekristos is breaking onto the scene with her new Hallucinogen EP, from UK record label Warp, and it is nothing short of stupendous… If only it was longer than six tracks.
The 31-year-old daughter of Ethiopian immigrants told the Washington Post how she went from being an R&B obsessed teen to performing jazz open-mics and gigs at rock’n’roll dive bars feeling as though she didn’t belong.
“I was in this really dark place of not being able to express myself,” Kelela told the Washington Post. “But all that resistance informed how I approach the music I’m making now.”
In 2010, she would move to Los Angeles where she teamed up with record label Fade to Mind and their London-based sister label Night Slugs.
Her debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me was originally released in 2013 and was jointly produced by DJs from both labels. Night Slugs founder Alex Sushon, better known by his stage name “Bok Bok,” would later feature Kelela on his 2014 single “Melba’s Call.”
On her new album, Hallucinogen, Kelela teams up with Venezuelan-born record producer Arca, who previously worked with Kanye West on his 2013 album Yeezus and Björk‘s 2015 album Vulnicara.
Kelela takes contemporary R&B to school with her first track, “A Message,” a memorable tune featuring an infectious hook. Just try and resist, when she sings “I could be your ex-girlfriend,” you’ll be smitten.
Arca borrows samples of panflute and other world music on the track “Gomenasai,” creating the perfect beat for Kelela’s vocal talents.
“All The Way Down,” sounds like a futuristic blend of R&B vocalists like Aaliyah and Mary J. Blige with minimalist electronic artists like Four Tet or Pearson Sound. The result is a song that bridges the gap between the two genres.
Her latest single “Rewind,” showcases the singer-songwriter’s range, layering and distorting her vocals over an uptempo drum beat.