Album Review: Colourgrade // Tirzah

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Tirzah is no stranger to the left-field, having released a steady stream of fuzzy alt-pop since her debut EP I’m Not Dancing was released back in 2013. Her new LP Colourgrade marks a shift even further from the mainstream, featuring some of her weirdest and most wonderful tracks to date.

Colourgrade inhabits a dreamy soundscape, vocals and white noise punctuated by sharp metallic crashes or dark foreboding whirs. The texture of ‘Recipe’ is rough like sandpaper, and the production feels like it mutes the otherwise interesting synths, but the effect on ‘Tectonic’ is perfect. The track is brooding and sludgy, shuffling along as Tirzah repeats “as you touch me / I’m out my body” in a trance-like monotone. The backing track sets the tone for the rest of the album, a chugging refrain that feels hyponotic, like it will never end. 

The title track ‘Colourgrade’ is dissonant and haunting, with Tirzah’s normally tuneful vocals sounding like they have been pushed through a shredder. The song gives an intriguing foresight into the album, but feels like it drags on for slightly too long, leaving us to overthink the stuttery and grating vocals. It feels a world away from the hypnotic echoes of collaborator Cody Sey on ‘Hive Mind,’ or even the slimy but tuneful wail of ‘Crepuscular Rays.’ ‘Hive Mind’ almost feels like a demo, the arpeggios that run throughout the track sounding hesitant, and Tirzah and Sey’s vocals feel intuitively tuned with each other.

Despite its more avant garde moments, Colourgrade does not shy away from lyrics when it needs them. Love song ‘Beating’ is stripped back and intimate, written about Tirzah’s partner Kwake Bass. Her direct voice and the small but telling cough after she sings “found you / found me” are emotional and fragile compared with the simple synth line running beneath it, and make ‘Beating’ one of the best songs on the album.

The singles from Colourgrade are obvious; markedly more lyrical or freed from the fuzz that suffocates some other tracks on the album, although part of me wishes one of the odder tracks had made the list. It’s ‘Sink In’ that really stands out though, sounding markedly fuller than the rest of the album, straying closer to Tirzah’s previous material, but it still retains the distinctive industrial sound that marks out her music. Tirzah’s breathy vocals swoop up and down octaves effortlessly as she sings “I’m sinking / for that feeling,” evoking a heavy and seductive atmosphere.

On Colourgrade, Tirzah refuses to play by anyone else’s rules. Compared with much of the smoothed down and hyper-produced pop music that’s currently so popular, Tirzah’s messiest, most DIY album yet stands out a mile. While it’s definitely weird, it’s rawness feels startling and close, showing an artist determined to do things her way.

Words by Martha Storey


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