Tash Sultana: Flow State (Sony)

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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? 

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