Manicured, glossy, easily digestible music takes up so much space in pop culture that when an artist like Tirzah finds some success, you have to wonder: How? The London-based singer-songwriter's 2018 debut, Devotion, was filled with offbeat R&B melodies and soft vocals that offered a quiet escape. It was pop music stripped of all its bells and whistles--introspective, DIY, off-kilter--instantly rising to cult status. On Colourgrade, Tirzah's follow-up, the formula changes, but the effect doesn't.
A lullaby ought to be soft and quiet, but its core objective isn't beauty so much as hypnosis -- repetitive, beckoning, inescapable. There's a witchy danger to the very act of murmuring into the dim; an effective lullaby is an incantation that disarms and disappears you, a needle threading the seam between here and away.
Tirzah's Colourgrade is a collection of such enchantments, a series of fractured cradle songs that push into the dark membrane at the edge of so many lullabies. The record is milk-stained, heavy-lidded, exceptionally patient and unconcerned with the outside world.
It's been some time since then - it arrived in August of 2018 - and the ensuing years have seen her embrace motherhood, of which both the joys and pressure are keenly felt on her long-awaited sophomore album, Colourgrade. For any expecting the birth of her two children to lead her down a gentler, perhaps more accessible path, well, abandon those thoughts now. To the contrary, Colourgrade delves ever deeper into Tirzah 's unique process - sparse to the point of being spartan.
Tirzah and Micachu make oddly compelling music together: minimal yet always moving, balancing the sweet and the sour with intriguing volatility. Colourgrade is no exception to this rule, putting hypnotic lyrics to avant-garde beats in a manner that sometimes feels aimless but is certainly never bland. The title track, which opens the album, is downright menacing, Tirzah's voice wrapped in robotic reverb and ominous whistling bouncing off the walls, but most other tracks have a more functional groove to them.
Three years after 'Devotion', Tirzah, with Mica Levi and Coby Sey, pushes her artfully deconstructed R&B towards a slightly rougher and more playful sound that's no less appealing. There are moments of unassuming, sparse beauty all over the place. Over loops and disarmingly simple patterns, the London artist sings quietly of tenderness and intimacy, with space-age synths ('Hips') and blasts of distorted guitar (single 'Send me') arriving like gusts on a calm day.