SELA.‘s first EP is a lo-fi dreamscape: best listened to in bed, headphones on, covers pulled up over your face. It’s delicately fuzzed cloudrap with soft, ominous edges. Its six tracks is high on melancholia, short on immediately-palpable rhythm. This is music you’d fall asleep to, only to drift half-awake and half-terrified, stupefied with confused nostalgia.
The mastermind behind SELA. is Devante Tillis. He’s 21-years-old, Californian, and fucking phenomenal. Right now he is a relatively-unknown that will soon be Known, mainly because what this guy can do with a beat could move the cloudrap glitterati to tears, and probably has. Somewhere Lil B is crying, and he doesn’t know why.
It’s an incredibly solid listening experience. The second track, “when you tell them your love is strong”, is the moment where shit gets real. It’s certainly the most energetic song found here – a collage of cresting samples and unintelligible murmurs. There is a profound restlessness to it, and a claustrophobia too. It’s that moment when the blankets you’ve pulled over your face become heavy and hot, alarming instead of comforting.
Tillis is a skilled artist, weaving samples into psychedelic dreamscapes – from the hypnotically twisted “it’s always later” to the tenderness of “a new tree from love’s past.” The latter is sparsely produced, with a relentless sweetness that overlays something mournful. It’s a slow wave of sadness and hope. The beat is strong and the emotion is heartfelt. It’s lovely.
This is musical that is meant to be particularly difficult to describe. It seems disingenuous to ascribe a tangible meaning to any of this – something strange and beautiful, but ultimately opaque, far beyond the reach of words. While that might appear to be a cop out, this EP will leave listeners restless and profoundly sad. But at the end of the experience, they will appreciate its beauty.
There is a word for this feeling: Saudade. It’s Portuguese, untranslatable to English, a feeling of deep longing and fondness. An emotion that accompanies the memory of something much-loved but long since gone. first epitomizes this, to wit: the only truly decipherable verbal sample throughout it’s 22-minute runtime are the words, “I love you. I’ll talk to you soon.” What remains is wistful, impressionistic noise.