If jazz and blues genres wanted to make a summertime swimming pool album.
From the initial roots of street busking performances, Tash Sultana worked on their guitar stagecraft and in particular their quickfire looping of riffs, melodies and rhythms. With the second album ‘Terra Firma’, Tash’s sound may be more relaxed and easy than ever before but never has the looping been so strong and fundamental to their work as now.
I say this because the album works as a continuous song. Drums, melodies and rhythms all feel like they could have been tracked largely on the fly although they are clearly being played in real-time. The other big shift here is that Tash has clearly been inspired by jazz and blues more than ever before. This lighter sound allows tracks like ‘Crop Circles’ to feel like they are caressing you with kindness rather than beating the truth out of you. As always, the lyrics are introspective wrestling with demons and inner acceptance but the music hits differently when its a chill jazz-rock number with light piano plinks, trumpet embellishments and hazy guitars. Before Tash Sultana was more guitar-centric – not so now.
Viewed through this new lens, ‘Terra Firma’ allows a much wider and broader musical expression. ‘Greed’ should be an angry statement lyrically – even musically – but instead this shift towards lush reverb-heavy vocals and guitar mutes that power. Instead, its the tracks like the electric piano filled ‘Beyond the Pine’ that work as more reflective pieces as jazz and RnB collide.
When the guitar and rhythms pick up, you are reminded of the power that Tash Sultana can harness. ‘Pretty Lady’ is an uptempo bop that you could use to bridge Terra Firma and Flow State, their debut. ‘Coma’ uses those echoed guitars and vocals to great effect in a hazy prog-rock number and a great outro reminding us of the guitar noodler within. ‘Sweet & Dandy’ is as close to reggae as Tash gets this time around and it is paired with sickly sweet synths that make it a fantastic summertime anthem as evocative harps join in the fun.
Clearly, this album is something of a personal heaven for Tash Sultana. There are many statements made throughout and the general smudged glissando feel is ripe from beginning to end. The closing track ‘I Am Free’ is the antithesis of this as it leaves just Tash’s voice and the acoustic guitar. Gently making declarations to the night sky. It just feels like the jazzy, summertime vibes may have lost a bit of the punch getting there. This is an album that is going to be a grower, not a shower.
Recommended track: Pretty Lady
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