TSHA – Capricorn Sun
Tenacious, resourceful, disciplined, wise, ambitious, prudent. Lonely. The goat is someone skilled at navigating both the material and emotional worlds, one who cares deeply for their companions, but is easily distanced by kinship. These are the defining personality traits of a Capricorn sun, according to Cafe Astrology anyway. Let’s be clear; this is not the ‘Your Stars’ column in Glamour, but it’s a necessary aside to understand the framework of UK producer Teisha Matthews (AKA TSHA)’s debut album, Capricorn Sun, and perhaps Matthews herself. You can see how these characteristics apply to someone like her, who with equal doses of sunniness and spunk, has taken the UK dance scene by storm. Her blend of hook-laden progressive house and Afro-kissed dance pop has made TSHA the new poster child of the underground dance circuit, soaring from clubs to increasingly more high-profile gigs. It’s been a glorious come-up to witness, from Bonobo’s inclusion of her 2018 single Scared on his fabric presents compilation, to TSHA’s own excellently acerbic fabric presents earlier this year. She’s a scholar of her influences, but it’s her breeziness that’s most palpable and infectious, an energy that spills over into the joy of her music. Capricorn Sun features a handful of previously released tracks along with brand new material and significantly, the songs we’ve already heard feel right at home on the album. The familiar sounds of songs like OnlyL and Sister make Capricorn Sun feel worn in like a comfortable sweater, and in this sense the album functions both as an arrival and archive of her journey.
Moon and stars aside, at its core Capricorn Sun is an album about identity and belonging. It’s unbelievably heartfelt. Matthews pours emotion into her work and electronica quite organically. From the beguiling string-laden introduction of Galdem, a track whose title and tonality sets the vibe for the rest of the album, Capricorn Sun knocks out most of its pop leaning material right off the bat. The first act is play for play near perfection, with Matthews striking the right balance between emotionality and style so that the album never slows down from one song to the next while feeling strikingly intimate. From the fractal-inducing tropical breeze of Water to the jubilance of OnlyL, it’s impossible not to feel the sun on Capricorn Sun. Matthews imbues her music with a sort of bubbly optimism, even at its most downcast. Giving Up for instance, turns the struggles of finding common ground in a relationship into a quick paced, airborne jungle banger whose breakneck energy toes the line between euphoria and mania. While similar approaches popularised by the lo-fi house cult and its leaders in the vein of DJ Seinfeld often feel overwrought, Matthews has the uncanny ability to make her emotions feel unforced. It’s also a refreshingly femme point of view, and Matthews traverses the boys club of her major influences with a laudable sense of self and conviction. This holds true even if she indulges enough to lapse into trope territory at times. It’s likely because Matthews relishes in the experience of feeling. Emotions for her are not a burden, but a lesson, and you can hear this wisdom in the way she approaches difficult subject matter with zeal. She’s not always as successful, though. Anxious Mind doesn’t manage to hit the same heights as similar songs on Capricorn Sun, and amidst a track list this accomplished, it comes off a touch half-baked even if earnest in intent.
The album’s bottom half features tracks sans guest-vocalists, TSHA alone outside of the pop formula she’s become associated with. There’s real gold here, a demonstration of skill from an artist with a truly distinct point of view. Unbound to pop convention, Matthews concocts some seriously heady potions. The sensuous Time takes its time to unfold, and when it eventually does, its layers of loungey trip-hop, poolside house, and acidic trance are gloriously unexpected in tandem. Sister feels as revelatory as ever tucked into this kist of gems, and it should. Created after learning that she has an older-half sister from her estranged father, Sister flows from carefully treading strings into a full bloom bouquet of blissful motifs, a squelching techno synth repurposed into the sound of realisation. These tracks reveal Matthews as a masterful storyteller, irrespective of lyrics and hooks, she knows how to bring her references together to map a journey.
It’s difficult not to recall a similarly titled work with similar intentions released by another celebrated Capricorn queen not too long ago. Perhaps this means there’s something to the moon and stars after all. Both TSHA and Twigs use their star sign as a means to rationalise the complexities of themselves; Capricorn, in this context, becomes a label of self-awareness. It’s for good reason that Matthews has been having her time as the It Girl of the underground. She’s both a product of the times but also carries the past with her, resulting in incredibly rich music that elevates itself beyond the dancefloor toward poetry. Capricorn Sun is a snapshot collection of where she is right now, but brims with the promise of where she’s destined to go next.
Listen to Time from Capricorn Sun below.