Multi-instrumentalist Tash Sultana’s sophomore effort Terra Firma bumps along, dripping with layers of early 90’s R&B, indie rock, and dream pop escapism. Playing all sounds while delivering floating vocals, Sultana is a musical force over the fourteen neo-new jack swing and soul/pop offerings.
The record starts on the acid jazz high note of “Musk”, a velvet-smooth opener that pulses alive; a full jazz record could be on the horizon for this talent. Sultana then dives into the late-night lounge vibe with the excellent layered vocals of “Greed“ while “Crop Circles” ooh’s and ahh’s dance together before a swirling sax solo wraps up a highlight track on the album.
“Blame It On Society” and “Sweet & Dandy” continue this neo-new jack swing/r&b style with confidence before amping up the hip hop on both “Willow Tree” featuring Jerome Farah and “Beyond The Pine” which inserts deep boom-bap drums, warbling synth and funky guitar strums.
Terra Firma isn’t totally locked into this era/style though as Sultana is credited with playing everything from acoustic, lap steel and electric guitars, to synths, to a wide array of brass and woodwinds. The escapist “Dream My Life Away” featuring Josh Cashman mixes things up while the best experimentation on the record arrives with “Coma” which uses a mélange of sound, rising to a finale that just screams to be jammed out in the live setting.
Lyrically Sultana is expressing themselves in the most open way possible, but rarely does it ever rise above standard feelings or worse, they dip into cliché, as on the bland love song “Pretty Lady” or reflective piano ballad turned bass bump “Maybe You’ve Changed”.
The strumming “Let The Light In” and declarative album closer “I’m Free” strip back the groove to focus on the singer/songwriter themself. Influenced by everyone from Bon Iver, to Kylie Minogue to Tony! Toni! Toné!, Sultana has crafted a wide-ranging offering on Terra Firma, appealing to different tastes, eras, and styles.