ALBUM REVIEW: Tirzah finally graces the London underground with Devotion

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Tirzah

Despite her lack of albums released, Tirzah has remained a potent force in the London underground dance music scene for much of the 2010s. Her mixture of glitch pop, trip-hop and house music is both remix-worthy and filled with lovesick songwriting and impressive vocal chops. Partnering with childhood friend Mica Levi, better known as the avant-pop artist Micachu, Tirzah’s long-awaited debut LP, Devotion, launches her unique lo-fi dance music amalgamation beyond its tropes without sacrificing any minimalist charm.

Devotion
Tirzah
Aug. 10

Devotion doesn’t demand attention. Tirzah roots herself in a demure atmosphere, inconspicuous volume and subtle beat changes. Opener “Fine Again” introduces the album’s essential components; gospel vocal cadences and bare-bones beats. Warm organ modulations carry Tirzah’s whimsical melodic lines, as nebulous sound collages rise and fall in the mix. Micachu’s production remains stark, yet immersive. That’s exemplified by the lone piano chord echoing throughout “Affection.” She uses these spacious environments to heighten the emotional impact of her impressive singing.

Singing remains the driving force of the album. Micachu literally samples Tirzah’s own voice as a component of the song’s production, like on the Massive Attack-tinged “Do You Know.” Tirzah’s rich timbre and alluring melodic phrasing integrates into glitched-up beats instead of floating on top. Micachu provides an effective backdrop, but never oversteps its basic function. The glossy keyboard loops of a punchy beat of “Gladly,” while hardly complicated, wonderfully serve her unabashed lyricism.

Tirzah has no problem wearing her heart on her sleeve. Even with its staccato piano arpeggiations, hi-hat trickery and icy backbeat, the title track stands out because of Tirzah’s crystal clear lyrics. “I’m not looking for reactions, you can come to me with honesty, you can come to me with tenderness,” she sings. Add the undercurrent of Coby Sey’s alto refrain, and the song becomes the perfect summation of what makes this album so compelling. Even so, nothing overshadows the rough aesthetic Turzah prefers.

The up-tempo “Holding On” packs a basic beat and brassy synth into primitive Soundcloud indietronica. It’s part of Tirzah’s presentation. She’s not concerned with overindulging in the pretensions of her style. Even ‘80s nostalgia remains minimal, with only fleeting moments on tracks like “Basic Need.” The song hints at old-school synth-pop before dropping into distinctly modern alternative R&B.

While many artists use the lo-fi tag as a crutch for lazy writing, Tirzah and Micachu zero in on curveball embellishments for their skeletal arrangements. “Guilty” might seem jarring on paper with its Weezer-esque guitar lick bookending AutoTune chorals and vaguely Eastern keyboards, but the inexplicable transition maintains a surprising sense of cohesion. Similarly, “Go Now” finds its footing on a minimal vintage clap snare and layers of vocal harmony. This track’s intimate, yet unpredictable sonics provide the perfect canvas for Tirzah’s slice-of-life wordplay—in this case centering around Tirzah grappling with calling her man out and avoiding conflict. Without overt sensuality or melodrama, her straightforward delivery comes as easily as the production.

“I know we’re made from love and fantasy/ I know we will be here for an eternity,” Tirzah muses in closer “Reach.” This cut’s dichotomy between fat garage rock drums and an immersive trip-hop beat provides the perfect close to an album full of simple beauty. While its dynamic breadth is decidedly limited to the quietly sensual, Tirzah’s debut LP bypasses expectations and drives at the heart of the U.K. DIY scene. Devotion is more than a first step. It’s the fruition of a longstanding artistic vision.

Follow editor Max Heilman at Twitter.com/madmaxx1995 and Instagram.com/maxlikessound.

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