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Live / stage review

Tirzah, 10 Apr, Picture House Social

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Local act Jackie Moonbather (bassist in Katie Pham's backing band, the Moonbathers) is a fitting opener to Tirzah's quiet, deconstructed R&B, performing a similar mode of hypnagogic bedroom soul to the likes of Steve Lacy and Nick Hakim. Armed with just backing tracks and a microphone, Moonbather works his economical setup to his advantage, imbuing his songs with the lonely pathos of a karaoke performer at closing time. Woozy synths slip and slide around woozier chord progressions, moaning vocals embodying heartbreak as much as a sort of seasickness.

Tirzah brings a meek swagger to the stage

Tirzah brings a meek swagger to the stage. Small in an oversized pullover but confident in her ability to command a room, she immediately captivates the previously rowdy crowd. Behind stacked synths and samplers, her bandmates complete a trio. Mica Levi, producer of Tirzah's Devotion and superstar composer in her own right, and Coby Sey contribute live vocals, synths and electronic drums. Occasionally, Tirzah herself sweeps a clichéd glissando across some chimes, satirically evoking the saccharine adult contemporary ballads and slow jams of the 80s and 90s.

Levi's timbrally simplistic synths, which contrast with Tirzah's nuanced vocals, are ideally suited to the venue's cacophonous acoustics. The subtleties of the instrumentation can't be lost in noise, because they don't exist. Levi is concerned less with conveying the full beauty of a piano than evoking the idea or memory of a piano. Tirzah's hushed vocals jut dissonantly from the bright, blocky arpeggios, melisma strewn with blue notes.

When the set ends, she smiles goodbye and disappears. Despite the tour-de-force performance, the applause seems outsized. There is no encore.

Andrew Trayford

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