blak emoji


Photo: Kevin Condon

Photo: Kevin Condon

Kelsey has been around the block, having fronted a long-running and successful rock band based on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. But Blak Emoji, the current face of Kelsey Warren, is something entirely different and new--both for Warren himself and for the listener weary of monotonous music trends.

Warren is capable of plenty: He studied jazz guitar, classical voice and music theory at the University of Miami, and has played and sung in every possible context, as leader, sideman and hired gun around New York City. Blak Emoji is where he puts it all together for himself, mixing his tendencies as a brainy, substantive and complex writer with a fixation on synth sounds.  Blak Emoji songs are rarely simple and compact, but neither are they droning and repetitive like so much contemporary electronic music.  


One might fit in at the club, another as a morning pump-up song in your earbuds on the way to work or class, another as a bedroom jam, but as a rule they pack complexity without forcing it. The common denominator is Warren’s effortless vocals, which might closest recall Seal. Whether over electro-groove inspired dance music or a sweet ballad, Warren’s smooth voice makes every track a captivating experience.

Joined by bass/synth player Bryan Percivall, drummer Max Tholenaar-Maples and keyboardist Sylvana Joyce, Warren (a lifelong Prince freak) has made Blak Emoji his focus as a musician, tying together his longtime interest in alt-rock (think Nine Inch Nails, Bjork) with a more recently kindled romance with modern and retro dance beats and in between (Phantogram, Little Dragon, Childish Gambino.)

Blak Emoji, which Warren began in late 2015, released its debut EP, INTRO in January 2017. Two singles, "Poison To Medicine" and "Velvet Ropes & Dive Bars" were licensed in the ABC television show Quantico the same year.  The upcoming debut album, KUMI, drops February 2019.  It’s likely to be music which you haven’t heard in some time, if ever -- and that’s precisely how Blak Emoji wants it.