Tirzah

Devotion

Domino

Aug 10, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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Although Tirzah might seem to be a newcomer, she's actually been at this for quite some time. Between 2013 and 2015, she released one EP per year, and her songs occasionally managed to get the attention of certain big-name blogs thanks to her strange, thumping fusion of house staples with pop structures and her leisurely, raspy voice.

Devotion, her full-length debut arriving via the storied UK label Domino, only minimally resembles her EP run, though longtime best friend Mica Levy (aka Micachu) remains her co-producer. In place of vodka-tonic-spiked dancefloor jams appear fucked-up, cough-syrup-drenched spreads of R&B and electronic music. The album at once presents a ghastly, stuttering vision for the standard love song and tugs at the same heartstrings that R&B has always attacked. Across 39 gorgeous and addicting minutes, it never lets go.

"Gladly," the song with which Tirzah announced Devotion, deserves to go down as a 2010s R&B classic. Tirzah's voice achieves zen, assertion, and exhaustion as she details a lover so perfect his attention can make the world's troubles crumble. The song's synths swirl nauseously, and its kick drums jolt and command as they fall just slightly off the beat that the synths imply. "Go Now" drops its percussion with just as much slapback and pure oomph, while the volume of its sunshowered synth arppegios crests and falls as Tirzah casually, repeatedly breathes out, among other requests, "Don't raise your voice at me." The album's title track, which is its most traditional, makes its guest, Coby Sey, sound cherubic in his single solemn, recurring command"So listen to me"as Tirzah listlessly speaks her mind more so than she sings it. And only after she tells her partner how this conversation will go does the percussionagain the sort that just thwackscome in.

"Devotion," despite being the album's least strange number, opens pretty wildly. A deeply distorted, thunderously dissonant electric guitar marks a gripping false start, and this same guitar appears on "Guilty"which is so heavily Auto-Tuned that it both borders on self-parody and is one of the album's most powerful songsas the closest thing the song has to a traditional sound. This incredibly bizarre, compelling track resembles a MIDI xylophone unfurling its insides, and all of Devotion is just as off-kilter for its genre. Even the pumping, aggressive workouts "Holding On" and "Basic Need," the former of which deeply recalls Tirzah's EPs, sound like dance music for cyborgs in love, what with those hole-puncher percussion parts and wobbly synth sneers. Only an album this weird could get away with "Affection," a completely percussion-less ballad with a reverse effect applied to, of all things, a piano, being one of its singles. In taking a dive off the deep end, Tirzah brightly reveals depths to romance, love, and the human condition that many have left untouched. (www.tirzah.net)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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