Monday, October 9, 2017
Pitstop: Kelsey Lu
While collaborations with Blood Orange's Dev Hynes and Solange and a recommendation from Dave at Stadiums & Shrines probably should've been enough to set me forth on a path of ravenous discovery for the music of Brooklyn based singer/cellist Kelsey Lu, it wasn't until seeing her live opening for Hundred Waters' most recent tour behind their album that I really took note of the clearly gifted artist. Both in person and on her record, last year's Church EP, Kelsey Lu communicates in a solemn, almost spiritual sense of quiet.
Despite her frequent collaborations with hip hop artist and perhaps because of her background as a classical cellist, Kelsey Lu belongs to an increasingly group of artists of color who subvert the stereotypical notions of what their music should be/sound like. Like Mal Devisa or Moses Sumney, Kelsey Lu's music is rooted deep down to its core in a folk spirit. It's soulful yes, but it's quiet and introspective with delightful lyrical narratives too. Armed with her cello, a loop pedal, and her voice, Lu's music is patient in its beauty and devastating sincere and her live set is a testament to those qualities. Lu decked out in a bold, knitted outfit, carefully arranges sprays of flowers before she ever picks up her cello or utters for her first word. Then she starts to build her loops in a manner both meticulous and seemingly effortless as she feeds off the energy of the room. It's absolutely captivating before she even lets her mouth open and when she does, it was enough to hush a whole room.
Kelsey Lu's music displays a beguiling reverence for space and how her sound exists in it. A religious background finds her peppering her lyrics with light references but ultimately her songs are soul-achingly human. The ethereal "Dreams", spritely "Time", and intense "Morning After Coffee" are essentially diverse depictions of a quest for connection. Actually, the predominant theme of Lu's music and Church in particular is about the inherent need of connection and they all tackle it a bit differently. "Empathy" about the need for love in general not just romantic. "Visions of Old": a beautiful tribute to Lu's grandmother, and the stormy "Liar" is less of a cry for help but a blunt, honest confession of not being ok in so many connotations of that word.
Lu is talented, that much is a given but her greatest strength is her sincerity. Her music is honest both about herself and others and seeks to resonate with you deep down in the core of your soul based on the similarities of the human spirit.