Part of the thrill of Kelela's work, I suspect, has always been her ability to cast erotica against any form.
When Cut 4 Me, a 2013 mixtape in collaboration with UK bass corps Fade to Mind, showed us what spiked, proggish grime against the silk of her voice could possibly do, the impact was surprisingly sumptuous, if not flat-out hot.
Three years later, Hallucinogen, an EP under care of Warp Records, shifted Kelela gently toward the more enabling framework of Miami bass and 90's-flavored R&B. Yet, courtesy of production as angular as concrete and glass (Jam City and a few Fade to Mind brethren are to blame), Kelela's voice still felt tantalizingly bound, confined to alien structures that forced her to provide heat amid space and shadow.
So it is with strange pleasure that "LMK," the lead single of her debut album, Take Me Apart, marks perhaps the most digestibly sexy option she's yet released. Gone is the funny bondage of wobbly engineering and tone poetry. This is the epoch of Kelela-as-Kelela; pillowy, lush, and queued for the club.
The single's art — her name in translucent Amharic atop a photo of her throat — could not signal a more clear charge for the new album. Here is her voice, unbound, as sensuous and as raw as it will ever be.
Take Me Apart debuts October 4th from Warp Records.