Kele Okereke’s sixth solo album The Flames pt. 2 arrives as a response to 2021’s The Waves pt.1, an album that was written and recorded by the Bloc Party frontman in the pandemic. The Waves pt.1 saw Kele lost at sea, and this new release is the sound of him emerging from that disorientating feeling. Finding himself again in this renewed reality, Kele finds immediacy and intensity, inspired by the creative, destructive and all-consuming nature of fire.
The Flames pt.2 is an intensive, absorbing record, even in its more gentle moments, partly due to all sounds recorded coming from one instrument: Kele’s guitar. In setting himself the challenge to restrict himself in this way, he pushed himself out of his creative box; what has been created as a result is an album that is unarguably different and unplacable, much like his previous solo efforts. Opening track ‘Never Have I Ever’ depicts uncouth desires to a soundtrack of looped, grating guitars at odds with soft vocals at the chorus, and it’s a formula repeated throughout the record despite how different all the parts may sound on the surface. Whether it’s a lo-fi hip-hop drum beat, a guitar refrain pulled from the indie sleaze heyday, lyrics that are observing a fantastical narrative or a saccharine personal confession, each unique characteristic that makes up a song on this album are like pieces of a puzzle that don’t quite fit together. Maybe they’re not supposed to, maybe they don’t want to – but you definitely notice.
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