A glimpse into the distant world of TĀLĀ
There’s a name which has seeped persistently through nearly every ‘Track of the Week’ or ‘Ones to Watch’ list over recent months. The name is unusual and mysterious: TĀLĀ.
The first glimpse of TĀLĀs work, the title track from her upcoming The Duchess EP, invaded Soundcloud in April, swiftly totting up the play count. And rightfully so, its ethereal, reworked vocals and entrancing bass swells offering a thrilling, exotic alternative in a saturated post-RnB landscape. With the listener hooked, TĀLĀ then fearlessly reiterated her point with the follow-up: an unsettling, haunting percussive intro which tumbles into the stunning Serbia.
This multifaceted nature, of sweet sighs married to a taste for the sinister, makes sense when we speak to the rapidly-ascending South Londoner. She’s sweet and approachable, yet takes a kind of fascinated joy in the perverse, revealing that Srdjan Spasojevic’s harrowing and violent erotic thriller A Serbian Film inspired the brooding, dense intro. “I love it!”, she declares. “It’s fucked, but it’s a really well made film. It properly tormented me.” Dragging you in to the depths of a murky nightmare, the twisted inspiration builds an offbeat momentum, before the rhythm quickly shifts into a whirl of heady, jagged beats and shimmering, choppy pop vocals.
It’s these layers of inhuman voices, sodden with effects, which have already become the hallmark of TĀLĀ’s sound. Fitting snugly into the lineage of Grimes and Jai Paul, poring over these enticingly indefinable yet hook-laden lines is a passion. “I love doing loads of weird vocal stuff like chopping and pitching”, she says gleefully, “just fucking up the vocals.”
TĀLĀ’s inspiration springs from a diverse raft of sources, but the 25-year-old stressed the significance of her cultural grounding in the irrepressible concoction she constructs today. The combination of her frustrated musician Iranian father, pop-loving English mother and Prince-addict brother undoubtedly attributed to her broad pallet of tastes. “It was always a bit mental in my house growing up, there were loads of cultural influences, it was a big mishmash of sounds.” Against this colourful backdrop she was left to pluck influences at leisure, and learning the piano at the tender age of seven fuelled her ambition.
The thematic realms TĀLĀ’s music inhabits are far from whimsical; she grasps at relevant contemporary issues through her own warped filter. The inspiration for The Duchess derives from a conversation with a close friend surrounding the façade of fame, and her approach to the industry comes from a place of self-awareness. This is made equally evident when discussing the nagging issue of gender. “There’s a lot of pressure on women in this industry, y’know? There’s always that image- conscious element.” She seems incredulous that the subject remains so prevalent. “There’s loads of sick girls producing out there, but it’s still so male-dominated” she laments. “It would just be nice for it not to be a surprise that a girl did something technical! You wouldn’t think there would still be that perception, but there sadly is.”
“It would be nice for it not to be a surprise that a girl did something technical! You wouldn’t think there would still be that perception, but there sadly is”
TĀLĀ cites her main goal as accomplishing the same escapism in her listeners as she experiences when producing her songs. “When I’m in the zone I get transported to my own world and I can escape for a minute, and I want to take people somewhere else. I want to give them a piece of my world.” That ‘otherworldliness’ can equally be visual, as seen in the bleary, evocative video accompaniment for Serbia. Directed by Katia Ganfield, it was produced on a shoestring budget, which both parties agreed should be spent on an experience, an attempt to capture something truly magical. This resulted in a trip to Morocco. “It’s an interesting play in the visuals, because it’s not what you’d expect from the title. It added depth to the song – our experience was so profound. It’s something greater than a person.”
Setting her sights beyond the release of her EP on Aesop this month, TĀLĀ envisions live shows, endless sonic experimentation, and even teaming up with Katia again for further travels. “We’ll definitely be going on more adventures”, she smiles. With her intoxicating cross-cultural sound and addictive amorphous vocals, with TĀLĀ you know every track will be an adventure in itself.
The Duchess is out now via Aesop