IMPRESSIVE NEO-SOUL OPUS FROM CANADIAN PRODUCER
The string of mixtapes released by Canadian producer Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, over the past few years hinted at a gifted young maverick, who had a stunningly original alternative r‘n’b sound – but who hadn’t quite realised his considerable creative promise. Well, Tesfaye goes a long way towards rectifying that with his excellent debut album, Kiss Land, an innovative neo-soul opus likely to be mentioned in the same breath as Frank Ocean’s acclaimed Channel Orange.
Unlike the smooth rhythms favoured by Orange, The Weeknd prefers moodier, more dissonant soundscapes, resulting in a mix akin to Prince fronting Portishead. Undoubtedly possessed of a colossal ego, Tesfaye spends much of Kiss Land crooning about soulless hedonism, urban alienation, and how effortlessly seducing scores of beautiful women still leaves him feeling a bit empty inside. The poor fella.
Still, when the musical textures are this stunning, you can forgive him the odd moment of indulgence. Equal parts funk jam and experimental sound collage, ‘The Town’ is probably what Scott Walker would be like if he ever decided to go r‘n’b, while Tesfaye allows himself a rare uptempo moment on the dance workout ‘Wanderlust’, which sounds like Michael Jackson collaborating with DFA producer The Juan MacLean.
Best of all is the epic, seven-minutes plus title-track, a mix of industrial squall and funk grooves, which manages to locate the hitherto undiscovered musical link between Terence Trent Darby and Trent Reznor. Lyrically, Tesfaye also excels himself, informing a woman intent on taking photos of him that “the only thing you’re taking is your clothes off.”
The Weeknd starts here… and it’s only set to get better.
Key Track: 'Kiss Land'
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