Tash Sultana: Flow State (Sony)

 |   |  2 min read

Tash Sultana: Flow State (Sony)

Anyone who has caught this Australian multi-instrumentalist live and in full flight, as she was at the Auckland City Limits 2018 festival, would come away impressed by her versatility and stage energy . . . but also realising that her free-form playing – where one thing morphed into another – and her songs (if that is what they were) needed some refining and distillation.

As she leaped from guitar, loops, pedals, pan pipes or whatever else was on hand you might have had the feeling that everything was a showcase on the way to somewhere else.

She is profligate of styles too – sometimes a Santana-inspired kiss-the-sky player, at other times right down into quiet ballads and all points in between and beyond.

She was a busker for a while and that job means attracting attention, and that seems to be in her DNA . . . to the expense of consideration.

The first piece of good news about this debut is that there are 12 tracks across the hour-long playing time (there's also a two minute Outro) so there's been some necessary economy and focus self-imposed in the studio . . . because she also produces herself.

The irony perhaps is that it is when she stretches out here – as on the five and half minute Cigarettes which begins as a muted multi-tracked vocal ballad and takes off to the stratosphere on the back of blistering wah-wah funk guitar around the 3.45 mark – is where she really makes A Big Statement.

The six-minute Harvest Love later moves from an ethereal and yearning ballad where her voice seems to exist in the ether through a more desperate intensity and her vocal ascends to the realm of the angels while stabbing guitar keeps everything earthbound.

The nine and half minute Blackbird opens as a guitar instrumental somewhere in a Moroccan souk, hitches a caravan to the Alhambra and then – in lyrics which on the page might have come from the Delta in the Thirties – she yearns, ups the tempo and . . .

Well, this is Tash Sultana so you just fasten your seatbelt, put the tray table up, close your eyes and let her be the designated pilot to wherever. After Blackbird that brief Outro on a Davy Graham-like acoustic piece with microtones and chimes is akin to comin' down from the trip, or home from the journey if you prefer.

Home safe.

Outside of those major pieces are the obligatory reggae (Big Smoke), a downbeat trip-hop after-hours blues of beats (Murder to the Mind), acoustic folk-cum-slurry Rasta blues (Mellow Marmalade), Free Mind sounds like a slow and soulful dance under a Bali moon, Seven is just something else and utterly convincing, and . . .

Lotta musical information on this debut and although it seems to reign in a massive but waywardly gifted talent by the end you may well end up with the same feeling as when you had seen her live.

That said, this really is . . .

Well, check the posted track – was that a Chinese influence at the midpoint? – and make up your own mind.

There's plenty more – and more different again – where that came from.

Then even morer on this different, diverse and showcasing stake-in-the-dirt debut.

And hey, is her album cover a mandala and/or a vagina? 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications (Rough Trade)

Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications (Rough Trade)

Chapter Seven: In which our hero in the company of producer Steve Albini undertakes a daring journey to his inner Bowie but cannot decide between the glam-rock of Ziggy or the avant-rock of Tin... > Read more

Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again (Universal)

Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again (Universal)

London-born to Ugandan parents, Michael Kiwanuka has become something of a "next big thing" in the British music scene, but on the evidence of this quietly confident debut album he seems... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Singer-guitarist Rory Block learned directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White and others and here – through originals and retooled covers – acknowledges the great... > Read more

Mick Jones of the Clash: Career Opportunities

Mick Jones of the Clash: Career Opportunities

Years later someone brought it to my attention: in Marcus Gray's book about the Clash, Last Gang in Town, there is mention of -- and a quote from -- my December 93 interview with Mick Jones. By... > Read more