Tune- Yards dig deeper, but keeps dance beats flow­ing

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - News - BY GREG KOT

On Tune- Yards’ lat­est al­bum, “I Can Feel you Creep into my Pri­vate Life” ( 4AD), Mer­rill Gar­bus un­flinch­ingly in­ter­ro­gates her­self. As she pulls apart her con­tra­dic­tions and self- delu­sions, she calls upon her deep­en­ing un­der­stand­ing of dance mu­sic — draw­ing upon rhythms from her past life in Kenya to her cur­rent du­ties as aDJ in Oak­land — to keep the air from get­ting toomurky.

The merger of a fur­rowed­brow in­tel­lect and hip- free­ing rhythm has been a TuneYards con­stant since Gar­bus made her 2009 bed­room record­ing, “Bird- Brains.” “I Can Feel you Creep into my Pri­vate Life” is both more re­fined and yet­more raw.

Gar­bus is a pow­er­house singer, but she’s also ex­plor­ing more nu­anced melodies and phras­ing, even as she con­fronts big sub­jects: white priv­i­lege, cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion, the end of the world. It never sounds like heavy lift­ing be­cause the mu­sic was built to be blasted through big speak­ers in a dance club.

With bassist Nate Brenner shar­ing the song­writ­ing and pro­duc­tion and Mikaelin Blue­spruce, com­ing off a tri­umphant col­lab­o­ra­tion with Solange, do­ing the mix­ing, Tune- Yards rev­els in rhyth­mic change- ups and un­ex­pected jux­ta­po­si­tions.

On“HeartAt­tack,” ahyp­notic pi­ano rhythm un­folds into a ma­trix of propul­sive per­cus­sion. Gar­bus splits the dif­fer­ence be­tween a cry of an­guish and one of lib­er­a­tion, her voice ham­mer­ing like a dru­min the cho­rus, yetal­sos­wooninga­long thesong’sedges.

The tow­er­ing “ABC 123” en­vi­sions the planet’s “sixth ex­tinc­tion” over­arub­bery­bass lin­e­and­type­writer­rhythms. In the bru­tal in­ter­ro­ga­tion of “Col­o­nizer,” Gar­bus sneers her self- in­crim­i­na­tion—“I smell the blood inmy voice”— then al­lows that voice to be swal­lowed up by the bound­ing bass andglitchy­elec­tro- beats.

The mind- body dia­logue drives the al­bu­muntil com­ing to a mid­point rest on “Home,” in which the pulse slows and Gar­bus’ voice as­sumes an an­gelic tone as she sings: “She’s a fool.” The “fool” is the nar­ra­tor her­self, and she’s come to a con­clu­sion: No progress with­out con­fronta­tion, and that in­cludes those who hold them­selves blame­less while a com­mu­nity or a planet burns.

Gar­bus has made an al­bum that may be her most out­wardly ap­peal­ing and most in­wardly un­set­tling. She can’t switch off her brain, so she turns up the vol­ume on the dance beats. ½


Mer­rill Gar­bus of­fers a per­sonal in­ter­ro­ga­tion on Tune- Yards’ “I Can Feel you Creep into my Pri­vate Life.”

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