The debut album from Kali Uchis is finally here after her beloved mix, Por Vida. Uchis now stands among some of the monuments in music with a surprisingly, tall first studio record on her own accord. Keeping a balance of Columbian styled swing that teeters into areas of hip-hop, funk, lo-fi pop, and an overarching theme of growth on Isolation.
Uchis has a voice that can turn human to puddles of emotion with this graceful, but still self-proclaimed style. She is an intriguing figure in music that has a unique personality behind the sound that is displayed throughout Isolation. With the introduction of “Body Language”, Uchis moves with the help of Thundercat to create a jazz-funk fusion with a voice that resembles silk making the foreground of the production. Handled by Keith Parry, there is a sense of distance through time on Isolation. The album touches so many different eras and genres of sound that the album itself feels it could have been released in the 70’s, but has some modern elements that make it feel futuristic too.
Shown on the instrumentation of the following “Miami”, Uchis paints the sunshine through the lively instrumentation of bouncing percussion that follows with the slick guitars. There is a movement behind Uchis that digs deeper with her self-motivation of “But why would I be Kim? I could be Kanye in the land of opportunity and palm trees. Live fast and never die, I’m moving at the speed of light. I’ll take your money, raise the price, blow up the spot like dynamite.” The track “Miami” also features BIA who delivers a quick verse that closes out the track as she describes, “Vamo pa Miami, how we live la vida loca. Me llamo perico pero no me gusta coca. New vice now I need a blunt with my mimosa, never get it twisted…” Uchis does a similar fashion of mixing language into her music and does so a little later into Isolation.
As she moves into “Flight 22” however, there is this dream-scape that Uchis paints and delivers on the very light and graceful movement. The string sections that coincide within the wind chimes and the dipping of the instrumentation takes the listener through these tunnels of sound that move the horns into the background. It is truly a beautiful instrumental, but feels complete with Uchis delivering “So pack all your bags, don’t gotta ask where we’re going to. Don’t wanna be anywhere if it ain’t with you. Nowhere in this world can compare, boy that’s the truth, to wherever we’re going on Flight 22.”
In the lo-fi pop standout, “In My Dreams”, Uchis takes a totally different stance on Isolationthat adapts to her sound fairly well. It was the first track that questioned if Isolation was still the album that was being played, it stands out and feels so different than the rest of the album. With production from Damon Albarn who is best known for his work with the Gorillaz, the pumping snare and bass combo moves as a leap from the standard Uchis sound. It works incredibly well and actually feels clouded and uplifting with the light-hearted synth that carries on into the final pieces ofIsolation.
“After The Storm” is one of the last three tracks on the record.Most notable because of the Bootsy Collins and Tyler The Creator features, Uchis stands on her own as a graceful, but strong pillar in the track. “The sun’ll come out, nothing good ever comes easy. I know times are rough, but winners don’t quit.” With the production coming from Canadian-jazz superstars BADBADNOTGOOD, it is a match made in heaven that long time fans have been waiting for since “Rush” on Uchis’s last EP, Por Vida.
The final moments with “Killer” send Uchis off properly with a 50’s inspired doo-wop movement. She explains, “Forever is for dreamers and it’s foolish to not know you’re a schemer… and if you loved me, you would never do this. Our future’s battered and bloody, you’re so fucking ruthless.” Uchis uses the horns and pianos to paint a final look at the Columbian daydream that is Isolation.
The album is not only incredibly beautiful, but strikes a personal chord to Uchis and delivers an insight into her own sound. She moves like a star from the 70’s, but lives in a modern age with a revitalization of a sound that never goes out of style. Uchis is a monument in a genre that has no defining sound, a genre that never stays on one side of the field, and is an artist that can adapt to any situation and do a great job within it.