“If you don’t run away, could be a happy ending after all…”
Santa Claus was thoughtful enough to bring me a much-desired vinyl copy of Kelela‘s Raven for Christmas this year – my No. 1 most-played album of 2023, for the record – and I just cracked it open for the first time to give it a spin tonight.
Heaven, as anticipated.
As I combed through the credits while “Washed Away” began to play on the speakers – Kelela wrote and arranged all of the album’s tracks, with production from Yo Van Lenz and Florian T M Zeisig of ambient duo OCA and LSDXOXO and Bambii – I was struck by the powerful mission statement in the acknowledgements.
“I started this process from the feeling of isolation and alienation I’ve always had as a Black femme in dance music. Despite its Black origins, Raven is my first breath taken in the dark, an affirmation of Black femme perspective in the midst of systemic erasure and the sound of our vulnerability turned to power,” she writes. “This one’s for y’all.”
Santa’s not the only one with gifts this week: Kelela’s got one of her own for us before 2023 draws to an end.
Ahead of the release of the accompanying remix album RAVE:N, The Remixes, due out February 9, 2024, Kelela’s followed “Closure” (Flexulant x BAMBII Remix feat. Rahrah Gabor + Brazy)” with a second remix from the collection: “Happy Ending (A.G Remix),” out Wednesday (December 27), shining a spotlight on Hackney-born DJ, producer, curator and designer A.G.
The new mix is described in the release as a “grimy, euphoric flip and a nod to the rhythm & grime subgenre from London-based producer A.G,” in which she “distorts Kelela’s vocals over a drill instrumental with Jersey club breaks to transport us deeper into her sultry universe while building the anticipation for the full album to a climax.”
The end result sounds like a sad little space alien making its way out of the club at the end of the night – a fitting feeling for the Raven fantasy.
“Closing out the year wit another remix for ‘happy ending’ by THEE BRILLIANT @ayy_g !!! love my remix projects cuz they allow me to shine a light on producers/DJs that i’ve admired for long time. in summary, she ate this icy banger right on up! this one is obvs for the club but it’s also great for night driving through the city. GO RUN IT UP!!! also big ups to my boos @lsdxoxo and @bam_bii for the OG!” she wrote on Instagram.
Not only is it a banger, and further evidence that the remix album will go off, but it feels like the actualization of the album’s intent. Out of the isolation Kelela felt going into making Raven, she’s forged a real community of artists to help overcome those feelings and build something truly special.
Photo credit: Justin French
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