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The Flames pt. 2 is a testament to Kele’s experimental energy

"The Flames pt.2"

Release date: 24 March 2023
Kele - The Flames pt 2 cover
21 March 2023, 09:00 Written by Kate Crudgington

When asked if there would be a follow-up to his 2021 solo album The Waves pt.1, Kele Okereke was pleasantly direct.

"I'm seeing these records as a kind of Yin & Yang thing,” he offered, adding “If the sound of pt.1 is the listener drifting off to a happy, peaceful place, pt. 2 is the sound of being woken up very loudly.” This dramatic shift in volume has resulted in The Flames pt.2, on which the Bloc Party frontman’s vibrant and disruptive spirit flickers across twelve tracks.

Like its predecessor, The Flames was written and recorded in Okereke’s home studio. Armed with only his guitar, loop pedals and minimal beats, these limitations forced the musician to “become more creative”. Fuelled by the philosophy that destruction is also a form of creation, Okereke seems to revel in, and rise from the ashes on The Flames. Inspired by a plethora of sounds, including the effervescence of SOPHIE’s “Lemonade”, the industrial buzz of SebastiAn’s “Motor’ and the stacked synth textures on the outro of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, Okereke began his own exploration of both burning desire and pure burnout, and how the two can illuminate and shadow life in various ways.

“You know what I do / when you tell me not to do it” he taunts on opener “Never Have I Ever”, the corrosive riff underscoring the lyrical truth-or-dare narrative of the track. Whether he’s telling the candid tale of a woman who is “all fur coat / and no knickers” on “Her Darkest Hour”, traversing the “extreme emotional shifts” of a man on the brooding “And He Never Was The Same Again”, or providing a stream of consciousness-style commentary on “True Love Knows No Death”, Okereke’s distinctive vocals glide cleanly over his mix of brittle, discordant, yet groove-laden sound loops

Some of the album’s more potent listening comes from the fiery beats on “Vandal”. “Use that rage in your stomach / let the anger flow through you” he instigates, over commanding beats and buzzing guitar FX. Similar energy underscores the slower “Kerosene”. “We’re only happy when we’re burning things down” he observes, this time over simmering percussion and riffs that smoulder with a quiet intensity.

Amidst the shrouds of smoke, there are also brighter, more introspective moments on The Flames, including the tender cut “Someone To Make Me Laugh”. A reflection on a more painful time, Okereke seeks redemption amidst a metronomic rhythm and searching guitar riff, asking “Can you fix a problem that you did not make? / Can you mend a heart that you did not break?”. Closing the record with the glimmering instrumental “The Colour Of Dying Flame”, the musician douses any existing agitation with a sombre beat and more of his crystalline guitar loops.

Poetically bookending a time of intense reflection and growth, The Flames pt. 2 is a testament to Okereke’s experimental energy. “I’m leaving cinders in my wake / the past is done / we don’t need to celebrate” he claims on “Kerosene”, vehemently striving to move on - and here’s to the next chapter.

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