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Tune-Yards - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (Album Review)

Friday, 26 January 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

On Tune-Yards’ fourth studio album, 'I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life', Merrill Garbus has awoken to her own white privilege.

While assembling the record, with bandmate Nate Brenner, Garbus participated in a six month Buddhist workshop on whiteness in Oakland in order to find her inner muse, and to learn to speak with a new ethnic sensitivity.

The result is an album of explosive imagination, Day-Glo rhythms and shouty playground sloganeering. As with previous offerings from Tune-Yards, it dances right on the edge of being really, really annoying.

One of the reasons it lands mostly on the right side, though, is the procession of fresh ideas and lyrical concepts that run throughout. This is essentially a dance album, and tracks combine different EDM tropes ably, from ‘90s Detroit on Heart Attack to techno atonality on Honesty.

The latter song opens with a marvellous synth siren that is whipped away when Garbus’ sequenced vocals arrive. It’s one of a dozen or so astute arrangement choices here, and says everything about Tune-Yards’ talent for formal innovation and joyful intent.

There’s also some more directly throwback work here with Look at Your Hands. This swinging groover recalls Chaka Khan in its smashy snares and spiky bass-lines. The lyrics are good too; surreal free verse that lands somewhere between the poetry of Karl Hyde and St. Vincent.

Perhaps the clearest crystallisation of the sound though, is Colonizer; a track that channels French deep house and worldbeat. It’s on this song that the potential irritation mentioned at the start also rears its dubious head.

The line “I use my white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men” is followed by a kind of layered yodelling that is irritating and somehow cloying. In 2018, the American racial experience is one of ghettoised ethnic groups, of a prison system that keeps the spectre of slavery alive, and of ‘shit hole countries.’

In this context, Garbus’ exploration of her own voice and privilege is truly important work, and fairly original within pop. But lyrics like this manage to miss the point, somehow. Maybe they imply a fixation with the self that would be better left out of the equation when talking about race. Maybe six months spent in a Buddhist retreat thinking about whiteness is five months too many.

tUnE yArDs Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue March 13 2018 - GATESHEAD Sage
Wed March 14 2018 - EDINBURGH Liquid Rooms
Fri March 16 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat March 17 2018 - LEEDS Church
Sun March 18 2018 - BRIGHTON Centre
Tue March 20 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Wed June 13 2018 - GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead

Click here to compare & buy TUnE YArDs Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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