Kelela

Cut 4 Me

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After a featured role on Teengirl Fantasy's "EFX," vocalist and songwriter Kelela opened for Solange and subsequently bailed on her day job to focus on music. In May 2013, she appeared on "Bank Head," one of Ezra Rubin's characteristically sparse but sharp percussion workouts as Kingdom. Five months later, Kelela returned with this free download, released through Rubin's Night Slugs sister label Fade to Mind. It contains the extended mix of "Bank Head," as well as a pair of additional collaborations with Rubin, and the other productions come from artists within Night Slugs' orbit. While Kelela applied her touch to finished instrumentals -- she and the producers were never in the same room -- these pairings with the likes of Girl Unit, Jam City, Nguzunguzu, Bok Bok, and Morri$ sound natural. Kelela fulfills her desire to make what resembles a remix album with presumably straightforward originals left to one's imagination. Indeed, most of these tracks, typical of Night Slugs' predominantly instrumental releases -- skeletal and percussive, restlessly flitting between stealth and violent -- end up akin to updates of Colourbox's "Nation" and elements of the remix counterpart to Janet Jackson's "Control." Unlike most album-length remix projects, however, there's never any sense of a disconnect between the music and the vocals. Kelela's expressive and athletic voice easily slithers between and coasts over the beats. On "Enemy," she attacks beside hammering drums and cocking effects, while the set's last three tracks -- all shadowy slow jams -- get restrained, whispery turns that are as heated as the more aggressive moments. Earlier, she sweetly aches, "I need to feel you in my arms, all this mixed emotion breaks me down and makes me want to cry," yet she spits fire -- "You want it back?/I'll keep the best of me now" -- with equal skill.

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