Interview Tirzah: New album ‘Colorgrade’


It’s 10 p.m. in the sleepy London suburb of Sidcup when musician Tirzah Mastin puts her children to bed and joins me on our first call via Zoom. Beside her, a static purring scratches her baby monitors. It evokes the dusty silence after the drop of a needle, just before a record begins to play. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter says she’s always loved white noise. And now, in their sleep, babies can play him a little something.

In a relatively short time, Mastin has carved out a whole new life for himself. In the space of three years, she embarked on a musical career that she would never have imagined, starting with the release in 2018 of her first cult classic, Devotion. In the years following this release, she started a family with her partner Giles Kwakeulati King-Ashong, a fellow musician who performs under the name Kwake Bass, and their two children, whom the decidedly private musician prefers not to name in the interviews. Friday, she is going to release her second album Color degree, a lush record filled with sweet engravings of love songs on the gradient between R&B, experimental electronics and art-pop. “I’ve always seen music in textures and colors,” says Mastin, explaining the idea behind the album’s title.

Even with his new success, Tirzah didn’t adapt his sound to what might appeal to people outside his inner circle. She doesn’t even think she can. “It’s like you always paint with pencils and then feel like you can’t pick up a brush,” she says. For Mastin, the profession of making music is inseparable from his friendships. Although the project is under his name, the the music is a collaboration between her and her childhood best friend, Mica Levi. “It sounds a lot like a big band project that just had my name slapped on the front,” she says. “I’m just another pawn on the board.”

At the age of thirteen Mastin trained as a harpist at the Purcell School for Young Musicians, the UK’s oldest children’s music school. to make music together for the next two decades. On a computer, Levi would create slippery rhythms and Mastin would improvise lyrics to sing along with.

I ask her if she would continue to make music if Levi stopped for some reason. She thought about it long and hard. The simple assumption seems to bother her. “I’ll pass,” she said, unable to imagine a world in which Levi doesn’t compose and the two don’t collaborate. “Does Meeks stop writing music?” I don’t think that would ever happen.

Between 2013 and 2014, Tirzah released his first two EPs, I do not dance and No novel. Both were made up of battered dance floors that gained popularity in London’s alternative club scenes. These origins can be found in later complete discs of Tirzah, although his new works tend to be less exuberant and are generally carved around more ornate and melodic instrumentation.

After Devotions outing, Mastin and Levi went on tour with their collaborator and friend, Coby Sey, who made a few appearances on Devotion, in particular his feature film on the title song of the album. The three artists began to travel and perform live together on a regular basis. Mastin says that at the time, involving Sey in the creation of the next album didn’t seem like a conscious choice, but rather a natural progression of the chemistry they had developed together on stage. At ColorSey took on a larger role, co-producing the record alongside Levi.

“It’s nice to write and perform live at the same time,” says Mastin. “It’s just another mind bringing that kind of energy where you don’t feel limited. There is a lot of pissing, a lot of fun. But it’s a good balance between serious love and pleasure.

On one of the Color degree most catchy pieces, “Beehive Spirit, “ Tirzah commemorates the project partners. Written and sung by both Mastin and Sey, the song is about finding synchronicity with your loved ones, even through creative differences. “Tie up as the spirits of the hive do” the chorus hums, Mastin mumbles it first, Sey catching up with her just a short while behind. In a whispered call and response atop a dense drums and sacred synths, the two echo each other from start to finish, never entering a verse on their own.

A characteristic of many of Tirzah’s songs is the nebulous quality of his writing. Less reliant on literal meaning or storytelling, his lyrics are often abstract, with plenty of space in between. This often leaves his listeners to fill in the gaps with their own interpretations. “This is how it should be,” she said. “Unless I really want someone to see it the way I want them to see it, but it just looks weird.” It seems wrong to me. “

All along Shade of color, this flexibility is effective. On songs like Recipe, where Mastin sings how she “will not hurt you “, we do not know if she sings for her friend, her lover or her children. But that doesn’t matter, for it’s a love song nonetheless, with grainy, reverberating vocals and instrumentation from Dean Blunt and his partner, Kwake Bass. Sometimes, however, Mastin’s opaque lyricism can seem less explicitly expressionistic and more like active avoidance. Mastin is a very private person. She rarely does interviews and only reluctantly posts on social media for music promotion purposes.

She calls the poems she sings “little diary entries,” but it’s often as if those diaries are written in code, so it doesn’t really matter if we’re allowed to read them. . This makes it all the more refreshing when, midway through the record, Tirzah pivots to a more readable vulnerability. At Beat, it is its most transparent. “I found you / found me, “ she begins to sing the song, but then stops to clear her throat at the microphone, as if about to unveil her heart to an attentive audience. After a pause, she starts again: “you found / you found me. It is clear that she sings to her husband: “We made life / It’s beat, beat, beat.”

Mastin says she can only expose this large part of herself by forgetting that music will be listened to by thousands of strangers. “And then after that it’s like, ‘well, now it exists in the computer,'” she said. “You’re not there when whoever puts on his headphones and listens. There is much to be said about blissful ignorance.

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