“Hand-built the pyramid one by one, while you flew first class into the sun” (Me: “You know what else is first-class? This lyric, yooo!”)
On their sophomore effort, Australian multi-instrumentalist and virtuosic live-performer Tash Sultana moulds their sound into a more band-friendly territory as opposed to their famed solo aesthetic. The result? Well, if anything, it shows an enormous amount of potential…
Tash burst onto the scene in 2016 with their electrifying bedroom performance of ‘Jungle’, an original track that would later score their wide-spread acclaim, coveted Australian music awards and impressive year-end applause (it placed 3rd in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of that year). Later that year, Tash would release their successful E.P ‘Notion’, which quickly launched them into the position of being one of the most promising and exciting acts in the country that year. I first came across Sultana’s music in 2018, a time where I had just started to really drown myself in popular music; their music marked a significant shift of personality and friend-groups I experienced in that year. I remember my head spinning from grandiose tracks such as ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Seven’ off their monstrous debut record ‘Flow State’. The nostalgia of this record will always be prevalent, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t worn off me a little. Their use of DIY, hip-hop production paired with the most HIPPIEEE guitars you’ll ever hear is maybe not as magical as I remember, but there’s no denying when she hits those high notes …its transcendental. However, in 2020, Tash announced to fans that she was tired (both physically and mentally) of performing solo, and wished to perform with a band from now into the foreseeable future. This by virtue meant her musical pathways would alter with it, as her returning single ‘Pretty Lady’ suggested. The song’s groovy drum patterns, swelling synths and fuller-sounding arrangement made for an at first off-putting, but soon rewarding new sound for Tash. This newfound prowess, despite removing a chunk of her distinctiveness, was an important next step for Tash, as its likely their sound from ‘Flow State’ would run out of steam quick if it leaned toward its most pastiche angles any longer. And now, in 2021, their follow-up record is here, and its clear there’s a simmering fire in Tash’s belly, spitting up flames ready for eruption.
‘Terra Firma’, referring to Earth’s firm surface in Latin, is a record that not only affirms Tash as a bold producer and musician (recording virtually the entire thing herself), but also a layered human being in search of assurance, love and freedom. At its best, the LP effectively transports the listener to the Sahara of the mind and the Amazon of the spirit through mouth-watering, plucky lead guitars and broad, soul-rooted soundscapes. ‘Beyond The Pine’ is a reflective, calming track with its wooing e-pianos and comforting lyrics on the topic of feeling as though you need someone to complete or “save” you. But perhaps the album’s most stunning moments occur when Tash flexes their immaculate falsetto to create an explosion of vibrance and substance to the given tracks (I think of the moving, ‘Maybe You’ve Changed’ or the strangely lo-fi ballad, ‘Let The Light In’). But as much as I appreciate the genuine passion and experience that is poured into ‘Terra Firma’, I wish it were more sharpened around the edges. On tracks like ‘Greed’ or ‘Blame It On Society’, the instrumentation and songwriting can come off a bit awkward and/or undercooked. In addition, tracks like ‘Coma’ and ‘Sweet & Dandy’ falter under muddy mixes and self-indulgence namely with some of the SATURATED AF instrumentals on here! But I can’t deny how at peace I felt leaving this record; Tash’s meditations on ‘Terra Firma’ are often emotionally mature and with more culturing overtime could easily result in AOTY material 😊.
Tash will always hold a special place in my heart, even if their magnum opus is still far BEYOND THE PINE.
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Fav Tracks: Beyond The Pine; Pretty Lady; Dream My Life Away; Maybe You’ve Changed; Willow Tree; Let The Light In; I Am Free
Least Fav: Sweet & Dandy