Possibly one of the most soulful records put to tape in years
Bursting onto the music scene with several home recordings of amazingly soulful guitar looped tracks with beatboxing and synths on the side, Tash Sultana has carefully waited a good while for her debut album Flow State to arrive a few years later following the EP notion. Flow State is most definitely a plugged, band effort and whilst you can hear the roots of the tracks all the way back to their looped demos and live versions, their fully formed versions are soulful and jamming.
After the bluesy guitar and vocal solo of “Seed” whisks you in with a luscious bluesy production that reeks of soulful jazz we launch into “Big Smoke” which has the groove machines, guitars and synths production feel more like an early 90’s soul-pop band. The guitars are warm and bright and each strum gives a glow to the track. The drums often feel like they are programmed a little rigidly, even if the beat isn’t rigid but I think it’s because of how soulful and reliant on space the guitar playing, and in later songs the vocals are. They meander and flow freely and whilst I love how punchy the drums are, they take a back seat to the guitar and vocals throughout. “Cigarettes” starts off very chilled before turning into a more frenzied uptempo rock jam for its outro. The transitions feel natural and even with all the production sheen, the electric guitar solo absolutely rocks. Whilst the guitar is most definitely the centrepiece, the other instrument used widely throughout is the electric piano and its warm vibes often form the base of a track to then jam over like “Murder of the Mind” and synths reign supreme in the instrumental “Seven” which is like a contemporary classical piece except replacing strings with synths and guitars. It reminds me of when Vanessa Mae took violin music to the dance floor and caught everyone off guard in terms of genre mashups. It’s atmospheric and whilst perhaps a little dirgey in places, a really different track compared to everything else on the album, showing Tash’s versatility.
“Salvation” is the best way to taste test Tash Sultana’s music from Flow State. The single showcases everything about the huge wall of sound choruses she’s put together against the quiet choruses, quickfire lyrics and vocal delivery with chill and heat mixed together with a punch and a spit in the face. It’s Tash at her radio-friendly best and a standout track to entice people in. Hopefully, it will let people in to enjoy possibly the best pieces of rock to come out in 2018 with the track combo’s that follow. “Pink Moon” is utterly jaw-dropping. Starting off as a lonesome acoustic guitar and vocal ballad it erupts into a vocal and guitar gymnastic performance that upon every listen gets me every time. It’s an epic seven minutes but its a modern day Gun N Roses November Rain type track that will be an anthem for years to come. Switching to a pure soul experience “Mellow Marmalade” is a simple strummer and voice performance. The stripped-down simplicity lets Tash Sultana’s voice shine and although you don’t forget she can bellow it out with the rest of them, here there’s a sweet soulness to her voice and it would be more apt to rename the song Mellow Honey by the way it oozes into your ear. The trio of epic acoustic moments is rounded off by the soul-destroying “Harvest Love” which includes one of the greatest and most epic falsetto sections of a ‘pop song’ recorded to tape.
Bringing us back to the beat “Mystik” positively jams. This one is all about the duelling vocals and lower guitar riffs and bass lines. There’s so much going on below the main chords you won’t help but move to it. It stands out because often all the embellishments of Tash’s tracks are on high notes but here it’s in the bass and so when put next to the laid-back chimes of “Free Mind” one feels deep and angry, the other is like listening to your couch going into recliner position. That then leaves us with the nearly 10 minute “Blackbird”. For anyone worried that a full production would taint Tash Sultana’s spirit and productivity, this is the song that will shut your fears down. This entire piece has some furious fingerpicking, dramatic flamenco-like flourishes and touches and it sounds like she could have done it all by herself with one take. I am in awe of her guitar skills and this is where she will floor you with them alongside a beautiful and eerie track before closing out with a short Outro.
I had been anticipating Tash Sultana’s Flow State for some time and I can safely say it delivers in spades. If you grab one new rock artist this year, make it this. It’s utterly spellbinding and how a certain retro-chill feel that I haven’t heard for some time paired with so much soul being poured out at the same time.
Recommended track: Salvation
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