From London-based singer-songwriter Tirzah comes “Colourgrade,” an enthralling follow-up to her 2018 debut, “Devotion.”
Still commanding the definitive introspection of her previous release, “Colourgrade” sees Tirzah venturing fully into her ecology, integrating the elements of kinship, motherhood, and humanity into her eccentric ecosystem. It’s through her profound exploration of connection that Tirzah illuminates her artistic singularity.
Title-track and opener, “Colourgrade,” sees Tirzah submerged in a perplexing soundscape of hunching synths and avian whirling, her lyrical musings flow like zephyrs across barren terrain. The auditory elements seem to operate with the goal of intersection rather than that of integration, and the result is spellbinding.
At once martian and mundane, following track “Tectonic” moves forward in ritualistic procession. Over cantering drum and hypnotic pipes, she advances: “When you touch me, I’m out my body / Instinct takes place.” Excavating lyrics from the humming mass, she weaves the vibrations into a tangible cloak.
The track’s music video features two computer-generated human forms intertwined, zooming in on the figures to a point of abstraction. Though synthetic, these compositions retain a familiar, if foreign, humanity. Rather than use the synthetic to falsely imitate the organic, she uses it to reveal an underlying essence that persists amid alien adjacency.
The term “color grade” stems from film and involves editing the qualities of color in film. When done effectively, color grading can augment a shot’s vibrancy and boldness, helping to bridge the gap between the human eye and the human imagination. “Colourgade” expertly expands its aims, contracting and dilating itself with dazzling intention.
“Colourgrade” ventures to expand but at times goes too far. As it does so, the listener is forced to expend their energy deciphering ambition rather than appreciating the aim.
On “Recipe,” Tirzah enshrouds herself in an oppressive mist of static, shifting her vocal weight as she moves wraithlike through the fog. In the tenderly affecting “Beating,” Tirzah wanders through her emotional geography, musing upon its natural features. Even in the haziness Tirzah casts over much of “Colourgrade,” there is an inviting quality — an enduring generosity and abundance that drives the explorative sound.
The defining track “Crepuscular Rays” references the angled beams of light which appear at twilight — a symbol of beauty in change and a refractory obliqueness. Conical in structure, this cut finds Tirzah’s vocals pendulating between pointed and peripheral among the contemplative expanse. The sounds dissociate from themselves, finding warmth and tangibility in the corporeal listener, seeking it out, becoming almost embryonic in their orientation and positioning.
“Send Me” is by far the most accessible track of the album, and the echoing atmosphere seems to be reabsorbed into itself, blanketing the listener in its achingly tactile closeness. The subdued nature of the track is clashed by tidal guitar in the track’s final moments, offering unexpected resolution in the wake of an otherwise developing stillness.
“Sleeping” begins with an unedited snare, catapulting soon after into distorted, wailing guitar. Constructed loosely as a lullaby, the lyrical generosity imbues the unforgiving soundscape with a sense of care. On the final track, “Hips,” distorted, digital sounds start to resemble warped human voices. These songs elicit a near infantile sense of curiosity in confronting sounds in relation to oneself. They’re objects formed of sounding mass that rearrange themselves in foreign ways. Structures at once entirely alien, and recognizably — timelessly — human.
Relating to these songs seems intuitive. The drums compel the body to move, the lyrics speak to you in a way you don’t consciously realize. You feel the vibrations reverberating in your ears, though this never feels like infiltration or corruption. Rather, there’s a purity that she extends, casting a prevailing force of humanity through sound.
Listening to her feels untaught, the movement this music inspires and the fluidity it explores — instinctual.
“Colourgrade” is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services.