With his sterling solo effort, “The Boxer”, Kele swapped out the angular guitars and anthemic choruses of Bloc Party and headed straight to the dancefloor, producing a shimmering triumph of an album which melded influences as disparate and surprising as two-step, Italo-house and old school garage with seamless ease. “Trick”, his sophomore record, sees Kele travelling further down the rabbit hole, but making something darker and more sensual in the process. This time round, proceedings take on a distinctly libidinous, downcast feel, the air thick with possibility and tension.
Honed by periods of weekly DJ sets, not to mention stints producing his own electronic music, “Trick” is a different, sleeker beast than “The Boxer”, with a newfound emphasis on Okereke’s soulful vocals, which grew and changed during the course of recording the album in London and New York. Framing Okereke’s intensely personal songwriting within the context of dance culture, “Trick” is a record which boldly stands at the crossroads of club history, old school soul and modern electronic R&B, with a distinctively British twist.
It is also, undoubtedly, a nocturnal album, one to soundtrack late night assignations and random pairing offs in the wee hours. The slinky opener “First Impressions” sets the stall perfectly, coupling Kele’s suggestive lyrics like “I can’t fight, it’s just too strong/ I’ve been waiting oh so long” with lysergic syncopations and stuttering, skittering beats. Tracks such as “Like We Used To”, “Humour Me” and “ Doubt” also explore similar, exotically charged terrain, beckoning the listener to after-hours mischief late into the night, with Kele’s lucent production and emotive vocals providing potent pulse points of longing and desire.
However, there is also an unshakeable sense of melancholy and fragility that haunts the record, the realization that these encounters, while thrilling, are ultimately only fleeting. On “Closer”, a female vocal begs her lover to “go easy on this heart, time to love or fall apart” before resigning herself to the fact that she still needs him close to her in the end. And then the arresting torch song “Stay the Night” closes everything out gorgeously, with Kele’s world-weary vocals conveying a world of yearning and vulnerability, as painfully intimate as it is strikingly beautiful. This is dance music alright, but not as you know it; in Kele’s hands it becomes something at once powerfully resonant and effortlessly infectious, something which aims for your hips but echoes in the heart long after.
Like We Used To
My Hotel Room
Silver and Gold
Stay the Night