Tirzah, Various – Highgrade
Last year, London singer-songwriter Tirzah released her LP Colourgrade to wide-spread acclaim. The album, a spectral rumination on matters of change inspired by the birth of her children, is an alchemical triumph. She opened herself up to experimentation, filling the void left by the evolution of FKA Twigs toward more pop proclivities. Through passages of noise and distortion, Tirzah’s lo-fi vocals float in and out of her visceral dioramas; amorphous in structure, hazy in form. On Highgrade, she’s revisiting the poetry of Colourgrade by allowing it to be transposed by an army of left-field musicians who take on remix duty for all ten of the original’s tracks. These remixers push the music of Colourgrade further into ambiguity, mostly erasing the already elusive voice of Tirzah save for a few snatched breaths or moments of looped utterances. A companion piece, Highgrade expands the universe of Colourgrade by sharing Tirzah’s anecdotes, turning the deeply personal into a shared experience.
Speakers Corner Quartet turns Hive Mind into a jazz session, eschewing Tirzah’s voice in favour of winds and strings who lead the melody. Lafawndah turns the amorphous vocalisations of Crepuscular Rays into a seven minute ambient odyssey, playing with Tirzah’s already mechanised vocals and stretching them even further into space. Anja Ngozi folds Tirzah’s voice in amongst loops of guitar plucks and a languid beat for her somnolent take on Sleeping, while TONE mostly honours the soul of Colourgrade’s most strikingly intimate moments on Beating, trading the original’s syncopations for a breezy dub backdrop.
Three of the collection’s most successful moments come by way of fellow agitators. Hips is a near perfect choice for Loraine James, whose skittish footwork-cum-bounce club beats lend themselves well to the original’s spherical synth sculptures. Arca presents some of her strongest remix work in recent memory with her taake on the title track, which in its original form acted as an interlude like introduction to Colourgrade. This works in Arca’s favour, providing her a blank canvas on which to curate the sort of slowly unfolding, ambient adjacent composition work that makes up most of Kick IIIII. Sink In, one of Colourgrade’s more straightforward moments, melts into left-field microhouse in the hands of Actress. The producer chops the song to pieces, pitching Tirzah’s vocals down to the abyss and placing a steady but minute 4/4 pulse beneath the melody. It sounds like the elements of the track are all functioning at different time signatures, but they twist and meld around each other over the course of its epic ten minutes to produce one of Highgrade’s most transportive moments.
The remix album is more in fashion than ever before, though usually its intention lies in services to the algorithm. Colourgrade is not the sort of album one may immediately expect a collection of remixes from, which makes Highgrade is one of the most intriguing remix albums of late. Its source material exists outside Tik-Tok virality, and is itself so complete and fully realised, that reworking it is no small feat. Yet, by allowing others to enter into her sphere of kinship and intimacy, Tirzah extends the life of these songs beyond herself. Together, they form a complete spectrum of Colourgrade’s possibilities; both the private and the public.
Listen to Sink In (Actress Remix) from Highgrade below.