Kelela to perform her multidimensional R&B release, “Hallucinogen”

Kelela Mizanekristos, a D.C. native, will return to her hometown with a performance on Nov. 30 at U Street Music hall. The R&B galactic goddess, better known simply as “Kelela,” will promote her latest EP, “Hallucinogen,” at the concert.

The EP, which came out in October 2015 on Warp Records, creates a cosmic experience. Its tracks mix the aesthetic and intimate quality of FKA Twigs and feature vocals reminiscent of SZA. Kelela adds a raw, electro-spiritual aspect to R&B—much like London’s Tirzah—in her mixing of heavy, fragmentary and spontaneous music.

Resident Advisor described “Hallucinogen” as a “six-song cycle that explores the light and darkness of love and sexuality, ranging from tumultuous to blissful.”

The honesty and raw nature of Kelela’s message of intimacy is revealed within the music of “Hallucinogen” and the corresponding music videos. “A Message”, the first single released from the EP, was produced by Venezuelan futuristic music mogul, Arca, and Kelela’s video for “A Message” contains aesthetically pleasing extra-terrestrial and minimalistic features, allowing the listener to focus on her words, yet be taken to another dimension. In the video, she dramatically cuts off her waist-length dreadlocks, suggestive of a change in her identity in the discussion of the familiarity and vulnerability of relationships.

“A Message” aligns with a thought-provoking phenomenon emerging in the work of certain female artists. Kelela follows in the footsteps of other top female artists including Grimes, who channeled her creativity into artwork for her latest release, Art Angels and FKA Twigs, who created eye-catching aesthetic for all of her releases, especially “How’s That” and “Water Me.” These women are playing with their images: twisting and warping their identities until they become unrecognizable as humans. They push the boundaries for what is considered “beautiful,” subverting society’s constructs of the female image and revealing the suffocating limits of the male gaze.

The title track, “Hallucinogen,” sounds just as fragmented and unpredictable as its title suggests. The glitchy and intoxicating atmosphere of the track connects closely to the futuristic sounds of Iranian multi-instrumentalist and producer, Ash Koosha, and Arca, who became famous not only for his work with FKA Twigs but also Kanye West’s album “Yeezus.” The track samples euphoric, repeated laughter, coupled with the sounds of glass shattering mixed with bouncy rhythms. Kelela and Arca are musical soulmates, and their music is closely tied to their personal lives and values, as revealed by a Resident Advisor interview with Kelela on how the two got together on the album.

Kelela’s multi-faceted album brings to mind the atmospheric haze of the club while simultaneously dealing with the feelings of romantic love. The EP is versatile in its meaning and unpredictable in its sounds. She channels her punchy voice in “Rewind,” while in “All the Way Down” her voice becomes more tender, introspective and passionate.

Kelela’s assertive lyrics and sleek and futuristic album set her apart from other up-and-coming artists, even though she aligns herself with modern pop-culture. The transitions between tracks of Kelela’s album sound smooth yet significant, and they represent the new and exciting direction of R&B. Her gaze stays strong, her lyrics meaningful. Kelela’s music cuts deep, giving listeners no choice but to lose themselves in its emotional fissures.

Bound to be a raw performance, concert-goers should not shy away from the Kelela-experience at U Street Music Hall this month.

Kelela will perform at U Street Music Hall on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m., Tickets are still available.

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