There's a considerable range across these six tracks, giving Kelela an opportunity to flex her dynamic delivery and wide register. Early singles "A Message" and "Rewind" outlined how much Hallucinogen would offer: the former, produced by Arca, turns lovesick R&B into a druggy crawl, while the latter is a graceful party jam equally indebted to '80s freestyle and weightless synth pop. Nguzunguzu's MA splits the difference on the sub-loaded smack of "Gomenasai," and it sets the stage for a breathless charge of sexual energy. But no matter the framework around her, Kelela commands the spaces—each production takes a supporting role to her expressive falsetto and cool confidence.
At the heart of Hallucinogen is "All The Way Down." It's a tender, mid-tempo ballad produced by DJ Dahi (a collaborator with Drake, Madonna and Tinashe, among others), and the most straightforward song in Kelela's small catalog. The impact of its presence is huge. Still a pop outsider, she doesn't just fit seamlessly into the warm, pillowy R&B, she finds new life there, delivering countless silken harmonies and untouchable hooks. You could imagine a singer like Ciara pairing well with DJ Dahi's soft-focus bounce, but the delicate lilt Kelela masters over each intricate melody sounds unmatched. Suffice it to say it would be a major oversight if "All The Way Down" doesn't reach the radio.
As if to further drive home the scope, Hallucinogen follows its most conventional song with its two strangest. The title track is another Arca appearance, where he's given free rein of a wispy acapella and heavy broken beat, and then things go pitch-black with Gifted & Blessed on "The High." It's hard not to think of The Weeknd when first settling into the brooding tone, though the light that slips in through Kelela's lavish vocal layering is uniquely hers. She elevates the song from the shadows with only wordless coos, as if slowly realizing how a strong voice can change the world around her.