Blissful, languid neo-soul is very much the mood of choice for the Colombian-American star’s third
Kali Uchis seemed to come out of nowhere in 2018 with her, in retrospect, somewhat presciently titled debut Isolation. It was an album that was almost universally acclaimed, a winning mix of soul, funk and pop which, given her Colombian heritage, also leant heavily on Latin music.
It was a pretty brave move to follow this up with an album completely sung in Spanish, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), but on Red Moon In Venus she’s back to singing mostly in English, even when the music continues the languid, hazy atmosphere that’s fast becoming her trademark.
It’s that sort of ‘smoke a joint just after sex’ air that’s draped all over most of these tracks. Lead single I Wish You Roses has a touch of Solange about it, being the kind of blissful, languid neo-soul which the younger Ms Knowles is so good at, and the pace never seems to rise above a mild jog. It’s a sound designed to show her impressive voice off though – at times she’s got the breathy urgency of a Sade, while sometimes, as on Love Between, she sounds a dead ringer for early Amy Winehouse.
As you’d expect from someone who’s collaborated with names like Gorillaz, Tyler, The Creator and Jorja Smith, there’s a range of guest stars on hand too. Uchis’ boyfriend Don Toliver makes an appearance on Fantasy, while fellow Latino musician Omar Apollo duets with Uchis on the spacey, sensual Worth The Wait. There’s also names like Benny Blanco and Darkchild amongst the producer list, but this is still very much Uchis’ record, where she has a songwriting credit on every track.
The big issue with Red Moon In Venus is that it can be very one-note. It’s under 45 minutes, but track after track of hazy, dreamy soul can make it sound a lot longer. Some tracks are a bit half-sketched, and there’s a tendency to lapse into cliche (Love Between has the chorus “love between two people can be so wonderful” which might even be rejected by Hallmark for being a bit too on the nose).
Uchis is at her best when she’s keeping the listener on thier toes. Hasta Cuando switches between English and Spanish and ends with a startling rap where Uchis boasts that an unknown acquaintance would “eat my pussy if I let her”. Closing track Happy Now even dares to pick up the pace and is a reminder how good Uchis can sound when she mixes things up a bit. A few more moments like this to break the homogeneity of Uchis’ songs next time around would be most welcome.