London based Tirzah is an unlikely hero in today’s pristine musical landscape, with her engaging brand of anti-pop gaining a healthy following in recent years. Mysterious, daring and hypnotic, her latest release Colourgrade draws inspiration from kinship, and the creation of life.
Tirzah grew up playing a Celtic Harp in Essex, before going on to write and collaborate with Coby Sey, Mica Levi and her partner Kwake Bass (all of which feature on Colourgrade). Her eclectic taste is audible across her back catalogue, from skeletal, anxious electro on the brilliant Make It Up, to Gladly’s abstract and sensual R&B vibe. This time around everything sounds a few shades darker, as if there is something in the air. Often abstract, and at times completely mesmerizing, this album is a definite triumph.
Most will be familiar with Tirzah’s debut album, a collection of off -the-wall love songs. It championed strange, personal, outsiders R&B with a club music mindset. Written while touring Devotion, and completed in 2019 after becoming a mother for the first time, this latest project sees the team implement a new approach to writing songs. With the previous album taking over a decade to painstakingly create, conversely on Colourgrade there is an intentional roughness and unpolished feel throughout. This isn’t to say that there’s no gloss, but there is a true-to-life element that has been retained. In stark contrast to much of the heavily manicured popular music produced these days, Tirzah’s continues to stand out for all the right reasons.
Timestretched alien-detuned vocals introduce Colourgrade, an astonishingly brave opener that on many levels does not actually sound right. For some reason though, it is hard to skip any track on Colourgrade. Tectonic, (whether named coincidentally or not) could have been played at early Subloaded / Tectonic dubstep events funnily enough. Hive Mind (feat. Coby Sey) is the album’s first real glimpse of gold, fans of Sampha, Sbktrk and James Blake are likely to get on with this one, and we would not be surprised if it ends up on commercial radio. Heavier, wandering tracks such Recipe and Sleeping unfortunately add little to the album. Thankfully, as always Tirzah delivers the goods on Send Me. It is traditionally quiet, but is performed with a boldness that may not have been showcased previously.
Some long term fans will know Tirzah from her Greco-Roman days, where she dropped her first solo EP I’m Not Dancing in 2013. Colourgrade and Devotion however, have both been signed to Domino. As eclectic and unpredictable as ever, it does appear that motherhood has impacted her sound; as well as her songwriting. Not only is there more grunge, there is also a richness; its almost sticky. There appears to be less dreamy lullabies, and more stark, cold moments. Comparatively this work also sounds more accomplished, sure footed and direct. Creation of life has undoubtedly been a huge influence, but as the album opens up we also deal with the subject of death. With a number of accompanying artistic and intimate music videos that feature a lot of nudity, Colourgrade’s experimentation begins to lean towards concept album territory.
There are, as always with a Tirzah album, probably more lows than highs here. It is something that we are accustomed to forgiving, and anyway, nobody would wish her creativeness to be restricted. When somebody is afforded this level of artistic freedom, they are bound to miss the mark a handful of times. With risk, comes reward, and while we think it’s worth it, Colourgade will surely be divisive.
To hear this quirky masterpiece at its best, why not head down to your local Richer Sounds store for a Hi-Fi demo?