Colourgrade LP from South London Tirzah turns painting into sound

Released today, Colourgrade is a collaborative journey that dissolves genres in the artist’s “village” in South London

From the Fall 2021 issue of Dazed. You can purchase a copy of our latest issue here

Tirzah sees his South London “village”, his thoughts and his family in colors, codes and feelings. He came out on Devotion, in which his love, joy and pain were drawn like fragments of memory through piano loops on the horizon. It comes out even brighter and more vital on Shade of color, where, with the help of Mica Levi and Coby Sey, she transforms sound into paintings.

“Carefree, not careless” is how Tirzah describes her creative partnerships with Mica Levi and artist and DJ Coby Sey. Lately, the south-east London trio have been working on the much-anticipated Essex-born singer’s sequel to Devotion – an album obsessed with a prototype of imperfectly perfect modern pop. While Tirzah and Mica, affectionately referred to as “Taz” and “Meeks”, met as children at the Purcell School for Young Musicians, Coby’s role has since blossomed. Devotion, for which he contributed a few pieces. On Tirzah’s new LP Shade of color, the trio collaborated to create a world of heady and loving vignettes that are both soft and rough. It’s music that feels as comfortable through the audio system of a sweaty club night in the basement as it does through headphones in a moment of intimate reflection.

In real life, Tirzah isn’t so introverted as she is comfortably reserved. Sitting on the floor in a quiet room, she greets me with a warm smile, asks me questions in return, and we enjoy random chatter as much as serious musical talk. When I paraphrase an old interview where she explained that Mica brings “chaos” and she brings “calm”, she puts a hand to her face and asks, “Did I say that?” with a laugh that was both shy and amused. (Tirzah avoids re-reading his own interviews: “It’s quite strange to read the things you said. Things are very different from being written when you say them. I think that’s why I don’t like it. I might as well send text messages. Written words, I don’t know, I find them hard. ”)

But if she were to encapsulate the essence of Coby in the new upgraded group, she lands on him bringing “the knowledge”. “(It’s) a library full of resources, it’s Coby,” she said, nodding to her collaborator’s in-depth knowledge of a wide range of musical genres. And the way their latest work transforms to embody a multitude of different sounds, palettes, and emotions, it’s no surprise that their encyclopedic musical brain comes in handy.

Every aspect of Tirzah’s life and art coils into a larger collective effort. She affectionately refers to the “village” throughout our conversation. Depending on the context, the term can mean anything from Coby, Mica, and herself as a creative entity to her children’s grandparents who babysit the kids during studio time and on tour. There is a sense in which Tirzah feels secure to be fully herself precisely because of the network that surrounds her. In fact, that’s what she prefers about the “village” (at least in the musical iteration). “They leave it open,” she explains. “You feel very comfortable taking things wherever you want. Whether it’s somewhere really silly and awkward or somewhere meaningful to one of us. Everything is allowed.

“They really feel like a collection of diary entries, that’s what it feels like when you don’t write something in one block of time” – Tirzah

Open creativity has always been at the forefront of Tirzah’s process, from her fluidly improvised days on Mica’s DJ sets in a worn Slazenger sweatshirt with distorted and wobbly tones from her catalog that continue to intrigue. and fascinate. But on Shade of color, the limits are wider than ever. Or Devotion recreated familiar R&B elements into shiny, asymmetrical new objects, Shade of color completely discards the sample pack. “I guess in a way there isn’t a theme, but they really look like a collection of diary entries, that’s what it feels like when you don’t write something in one. single block of time, ”Tirzah reflects. “You’re in different places, feeling different things, and we were traveling from time to time. So, yeah, that sounds pretty fleeting.

There is a transporting and almost whimsical journey through the project: on the single “Tectonic”, a minute and 49 seconds pass before even hearing Tirzah’s voice. It’s a trance-like, almost impassive performance, tied into a metallic bassline and filled with wind – an ode to the kinetic energy of sex. “Battre” is a literally sparkling rumination on matters of heart and family as Tirzah recounts different expressions of the central concept: “You got me, I got you, we made life, it beats. Its satin vocal riffs on simple synth loops so smoothly you have to lean much closer to catch the best tracks. “Crepuscular Rays” is a piece named after the image of the sun’s rays breaking through the clouds as the sun sets over the horizon, sometimes referred to as “divine rays”. It’s a wordless, dreamlike journey through soft, curly mouth sounds and a hum over lightly strummed guitars that sound like listening to seashells on a beach at dusk.

“Before the end of (the recording) when we were mixing the songs together, I was slowly getting more and more pregnant, so that stuff gets mixed up with my thoughts and feelings about them,” she laughs. . The album was recorded during a very busy time both personally and professionally for Tirzah – touring intermittently and giving birth to her second child, C. And yet, Shade of color feels anything but frantic.

Instead, the songs sound like short meditations on a fast train, with their emotional and patient loops, and their ability to capture those moments of tender attention, whether marveling at the miracle of birth, the spark. electric skin-to-skin contact, or revel in the wonders of nature. Tirzah’s favorite song when we speak is called “Sleeping”. “It’s probably going to change, but he’s the one who continues to take center stage. For me, of course, I think of my daughter, but I feel like it can easily be applied to anybody’s thoughts; even if it is not a child, it can be a partner.

On the scuzzy observation, Tirzah adoringly sings watching her baby sleep: “She sleeps, ooh she sleeps, ooh she sleeps / my baby, she sleeps tonight, I don’t wanna go.” There is an innate nonconformity in the way Tirzah and her village approach even such a lullaby-like subject as this – with sharp guitars and a lopsided melody, where others would mellow and rhyme. Is this kind of musical freedom in response to the rigid classical structure around which Mica and Tirzah grew up? “Yeah, I think the way we work together is definitely filtered by that,” she says.

As a teenager, Tirzah felt stifled by her classical harp training: “I think it was just the situation of my learning environment, not the school but the harp teacher I had. She later came to see the instrument’s deeper potential, discovering the world of jazz pioneers Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby as well as South American harp ensembles. “I was probably in my mid-twenties, like, a lot later, and I was just like… damn!” And although it is too late for Tirzah to relaunch his pursuit of a career in classical music, his own stream of consciousness and recurring mantras seem to mirror those of Coltrane and improvised jazz: instinctual patterns that arise and build themselves up. over time, reaffirming certain feelings in both the listener and the performer.

When I point it out, she slowly nods and nods, “Yeah, that’s such a nice way to look at it… I love a curl! As satisfying as it may be to dissect and analyze Tirzah’s art, she is driven by mood and emotion more than anything. There is a quiet ease and simplicity in her process and her outlook on life. She makes the music she wants to do, when she wants to and has the time to do it, precisely because she wants to. These feelings and instincts run deep in the fabric of his songs, and what you get out of them is largely up to you. She’s really tickled rather than distant when she says, “It’s crazy because this is something that really comes naturally to you, and then other people have their questions or their opinions on how you do that. “

Shade of color catches the immediate and accidental magic of Tirzah’s expression transfiguring in real time. The recording sessions for the album were live jam sessions in disguise, subsequently sifted through for golden spots. Carefree creation thanks to meticulous curation. “We would revisit those lyricless sketches where there’s just one melody or a long string of improvisations,” she says. As we wrap up, I ask her if she has any theories as to exactly why her totally instinctive approach has captured the hearts of so many. Is this a reaction to a world where art is more and more over-thought and constructed? “It’s a good idea … there is always a place for everything, isn’t there?” She stops, tilts her head and smiles. “There are all kinds of ways to feel something. “

Colorgrade from Tirzah is now available

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