Food an appetising mix of flavours

Food an appetising mix of flavours
Singer Kelis

Album of the week

SOUL/R&B/ELECTRONICA
FOOD
Kelis
Ninja Tune
****

Kelela, FKA twigs, Cassie, Phlo Finister, Jhene Aiko, Kid A and Jessy Lanza - these names may not ring a bell yet. But for pundits who have observed keenly the confluence of R&B, electronica and indie rock in the last couple of years, these soul sistas represent a rising brigade taking music to new frontiers.

Yet, in a sense, they could exist only because of the groundbreaking work laid by pioneers such as Kelis.

Yes, you heard right. Kelis, she of the 2003 Neptunes-produced hit Milkshake, promising that her "milkshake brings all the boys to the yard".

She may not be at the peak of fame right now, but a perusal of her discography - six albums which leap from R&B to neo soul to house to dance pop - shows this woman is a chameleon.

When Beyonce goes indie R&B - as in last year's aggressively weird self-titled missive - she makes sure everyone knows it. Not Kelis, she just is born left-field. Her latest album, Food, is one of those zingers you don't see coming.

Kelis, who kept a low profile since her acrimonious split from rapper Nas in 2009, is a certified saucier. She graduated from the famed Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in November last year.

She got her own show on the Cooking Channel called Saucy And Sweet and was last seen serving duck confit sliders to punters at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, in March.

Food is a U-turn from her 2010 album, Flesh Tone, in which she plays a sexy android gone electro-pop, working with the likes of David Guetta and Benny Benassi.

This time, she comes down to terra firma, an earth mama here to feed all humanity.

It's vintage soul, funk, Tex-Mex, gospel and Afrobeat, all sauteed deftly with future sass by producer David Sitek from TV on the Radio.

Floyd marinates slowly, horns and strings stirred gently. Change is an incendiary B-movie revenge missive as she lambasts someone who could not escape the "grips of desire" (Nas, are you listening?).

Lead single Jerk Ribs rides on an intricate syncopated riff as Kelis sings praises of her jazz-musician dad.

"He played the notes and keys/He said to look for melody in everything," she sings, an intimate rasp in her voice more pronounced than before.

That rasp, whether due to age or just sheer weariness from her personal baggage, is mildly shocking at first, but the more you listen, the more appropriate it is.

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