After a four-year hiatus, vocalist and producer Kelela has finally returned, releasing the piercing ambient single “Washed Away.” Having been relatively quiet since the release of her debut album Take Me Apart in 2017, there is an excitement to a new track coming after so long. Her voice seems to take on an aerial quality, and the song moves at a slow, assured place. Room is left for the listeners to breathe and be honest with themselves: “I love a banger, but for the first point of contact out of my hiatus, it felt more honest to lead with an ambient heart-check,” shared Kelela in a statement.
The song, produced by Yo van Lenz and released by Warp Records, is accompanied by a stunning visual directed by Yasser Abubeker. Set in the Danakil Depression found in Ethiopia’s Afar region, the video focuses on cracked red earth and blindingly sunlit swaths of water, finding Kelela’s silhouette in between. Broken up by shots of Kelela moodily singing directly to the listener, the natural imagery is almost brutal in its striking desert vastness. And yet there’s a lot of comfort to this track: “I specifically want to speak to marginalized Black folk and highlight the work we do to find renewal in a world that’s built to make us feel inadequate. This song is the soundtrack to the relief we find after going inward,” says Kelela.
There is a feeling of rebirth to this most recent single, something fitting an artist’s first release in a while. The lyrics find a balancing between nurturing and hard-won growth: “The mist, the light, the dust that settles, the night / The hope, the longing, fade away, blurry-eyed / Riding out on metal waves / Moving on, a change of pace.” What stays with you is how Kelela invites the listener to grow with her.
Watch the visual accompaniment and listen to “Washed Away” below.