Kelis “Distance”

Trying to pinpoint where Kelis will go next has never been the easiest of tasks. Bursting out of the gate with the left-field alt-urban mastery of her early (mostly Neptunes-produced) material (and snatching up a few major smashes along the way with deathless earworms like “Caught Out There”, “Milkshake” and “Bossy”), the left-field R&B diva raised many a eyebrow when she opted to go full on Glowstick with her last effort, 2010′s dance-minded Flesh Tone, a set that dominated rave floors and thrilled many critics.

So where to next?

We anticipated (hell, prayed for) Kelis longing after the comfort of Neptunes’ 8-bit groove and blessing the people with some throwback flavor for her next project, but judging by the sound of her new leakage “Distance”, the first preview of a still untitled sixth album, it seems homegirl is only interested in going forward creatively to dabble in new sonic terrains.

Though helmed by dubstep producer Skream, the subdued electronic-R&B fusion of “Distance”, with it’s skittering drum knock and tense, dark-synth ambiance, buzzes with a nostalgia for 90′s trip-hop/ garage sounds, Kelis’ breathy vocal hitting notes of ache and hesitance as she digs into a meaty episode of relationship melodrama (“Is there someone else on your mind, when your lips press up on mine?/ I taste the difference/ Now I need some distance”).

It’s not the most immediately grabbing number, taking a few listens before it sinks its charms in, but “Distance” nonetheless provides a fascinating tease for Kelis’ next career move, landing as more than enough to keep us intrigued by where else she plans to go with this sound.

Check out the radio rip below, courtesy of Hard Candy: