Kelsey Lu – ‘Blood’ review

The alt-classical talent has crafted an evocative, featured-packed debut album that, although uneven, commands you to listen up and pay attention

In the early stages of producing this, her debut album, cellist and vocalist Kelsey Lu described the record as a recognition of the pain in the darker side of life, and finding the strength to move through it. ‘Blood’, even as it explores complicated themes of life and death – of what’s to come and what’s not to come – is simple in its tranquil delivery.

Breaking out as a solo artist with 2016 EP ‘Church’, 28-year-old Lu has since established herself as a prolific collaborator, working with the likes of Solange and Florence + the Machine, and so it’s no surprise to find names such as Jamie xx and Skrillex on the list of contributors on ‘Blood’.

But what makes the alt-classical talent really worth listening to, aside from the names on this record, is her ability to hook listeners from the album’s opening notes. Starting strong with the suspenseful sonics of ‘Rebel’, Kelsey’s husky and bold vocals and poetic lyrics make for an arresting opening.

‘Church’ introduced Kelsey Lu as a connoisseur of billowing cello ballads that combine glacial, quiet soundscapes with a searing voice. And this record takes her authentic musical styling further, using haunting, yet comforting tones throughout. With the foreboding ‘Pushin Against The Wind’, the brooding ‘Too Much’ or the soaring instrumentals of ‘Kindred I’ and ‘KIindred II’, the whole album is like an evocative moodboard.

The upbeat ‘Due West’, with its shape-shifting sounds courtesy of producer Skrillex, is a contender for standout track, as is ‘I’m Not In Love’, with its swirling, psychedelic instrumentals.

Yet there’s a lack of focus that keeps this from being a truly great record. ‘Foreign Car’, featuring Jamie xx, jars and is without a real sonic direction; ‘Atlantic’ and the title track ‘Blood’ use poetic lyricism, but they fail to make much of an a impact with forgettable soundscapes. Meanwhile, the poppy ‘Poor Fake’ is a mixed bag that epitomises the whole album in that it’s uneven, with flashes of brilliance.

‘Blood’ is a record that builds slow and steady, as it continually keeps you on your toes with its experimental and exploratory nature. You don’t know what to expect next – from the record, and the young talent herself, but what appears certain is that it’ll be worth joining on her journey.