Kele's new solo record - The Boxer


10 apr 2010, 10:58

As I'm sure you've heard if you're bothering to read this post, Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke is set to release his first solo album through Wichita / Polydor on June 21. I had the pleasure of being invited to one of the first playbacks at Strongroom studios in East London.

Before I delve into the album track by track or rather my impressions of it here's a bit of background: according to the press release with Bloc Party currently in hiatus, Kele began his sabbatical at the gym, learning to kick-box and settling into the flat he had just bought. As so many before him he too found it difficult to keep his artistic mind at rest and so he booked himself into the EMI recording studios and alas the creative juices were flowing freely: 'It was just me and an engineer. I plugged in synths that I had no idea what they would do. I began programming drum beats, which I had never done before. It was completely back to the drawing board. It was exciting and terrifying. In Most cases I sat down, pulled a drum beat out of nowhere and arranged stuff around that. This was as exciting to me as the first time I picked up a guitar.'

Kele 'visibly' enjoyed being the sole decision maker in blazing a musical trail for this record: 'The key for the sound of the record was to take things as harsh and as physical as I could make it. The reason for going there was that these are the sounds that make me the happiest in the world.'

I was instantly intrigued to read that Kele worked with none other than Brooklyn-based master of the bedroom bedlam XXXChange. Aside from having produced the last Spank Rock record this prodigy has done some amazing remix work for the likes of Santigold, Thom Yorke, Björk, Yeasayer et al - check them out here
My absolute favourite though still to this day is his take on Deadalus's Make It So out on Ninja Tune (Happy Bday btw - they turn 20 this year!) - KILLER RECORD that graces almost every single one of my (electro house) sets.

So yeah when learning that XXXchange was producing Kele's solo debut I bugged poor Karen over at Radarmaker until she invited me down to one of the listening sessions - here's what I made of it:

WALK TALL                    
- stets the overall electronic tone of the album with a synth bass line that reminisces of a chain saw at various speeds together with a straight kick and clap drum beat.

ON THE LAM                
- surprised me by how different it is to the first track, I mean make no mistake this is an electropop album that spans the bow from straight up electronica to tech to a couple of different house facets and even jungle elements like on this track.

- is the first single of the album set for release on 14th June and OMG what a stomper! It's incredibly phat thumping mix of kick and bass are instantly infectious and get my feet tapping and my head nodding. This is also the first time I thought I heard the familiar Bloc Party sounding vocals. Maybe it's just that there are a lot of background vocals used throughout the record, but I was really impressed with the range and diversity of Kele's vocal work. The synth line reminds me a little of Wiley's Wearing My Rolex and whether it's just that or not I can't say, but one thing is certain this tune is going to be a floor filler across the nation and the globe.

- I guess it was down to having been so excited about the track before that I haven't taken any notes on this tune apart from the carnival rhythm in the second second half of the track that grabbed my attention underneath the repeated lyric "over to the other side"

- is the least electronic and most songful (if that makes sense) tune on the album. It is therefore quite fitting that it's a love song. Kele's vocal work amazed me again at this point as I had to ask the person next to me whether that was still him singing.
- on this tune you can really hear that Kele had a lot of fun going through the no doubt massive sample libraries of the EMI studio playing around with animal noises and answer phone messages etc.

- this is one of the more Bloc Party sounding tunes with a solid indie guitar riffs throughout. Potentially another single me thinks, especially liked the acoustic guitar break in the middle.

- a xylophone start with more female vocals that evolves into quite the electronic basher crescendo.

- slow building track again with lots of female vocals. He's used those quite a lot, but even though Ben from Wichita was so kind to investigate I still don't know who the female vocals belong to. Not Madonna I've been told.

- I made absolutely no notes on this one sadly. Sorry.

- is not part of the official tracklisting so I'm guessing it's the bonus track. Again interesting vocal work and funnily enough I made a note that read "U2 similarities African background" I clearly wasn't fully with it anymore at this stage…

All in all a great sounding record that establishes Kele as a credible solo artist not shy of Thom Yorke stature.


  • HansBP

    Great article! Now it's even harder to wait for the album, because you make it sound so promising! I normally don't really listen to these kinds of electronic music, but I like it a lot that through Bloc Party I hear lots of things that I haven't heard before.

    11 apr 2010, 15:23
  • a2517416

    well done!

    25 apr 2010, 18:32
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