If you know me personally, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard me banging on about how starting Picky Bastards has been a bit of life changer for me. You might even recognise it from some of my reviews. I, like many people who have reached their thirties, was stuck in a bit of musical rut. I knew what I liked and I listened to it again and again and again, dismissing everything else as unnecessary. Then we started the podcast. I was forced to engage with the current music scene and my ears were pleasantly surprised.
Rewind back to a few months before Nick, Nirmal, and myself started recording our whiny little voices and there is no way you would have seen me randomly deciding to review an album by an artist I had never heard of. And what a shame that would’ve been. Without that push to rediscover new music, I would never have listened to this beautiful little album by Tamu Massif.
Have you heard of him? No, me neither. I put myself forward for this album simply on the basis of a tweet I saw that compared him to Bon Iver. I get the comparison. It’s hard to hear a song like ‘Carapace’, with it’s mix of glitchy electronics and folk aesthetic, without thinking of the trends that started to appear following 22, A Million. But the similarities are limited to that; yes, Tamu Massif fits on a line that begins with Bon Iver but he also has a very distinct sound of his own.
He has a textured, gravelly voice at times. This is particularly evident on ‘Gods’, one of the album’s darker songs and also an album highlight. But at other times he can sound sweet and comforting, such as on album opener ‘Little Death’, even as the subject matter of the song slightly betrays the sounds. Other highlights include ‘Senses’ in which Tamu seems to be pleading to a lost love one, replaying their moments together and regretting his inability to find a way to leave them in the past, and ‘Get Some Sleep’, which, with its minimalist tones and laid back delivery could almost be a sleeping aid if it weren’t so damn good.
It’s a really rather impressive collection of songs for a debut album from an artist who seems to have received little fanfare. A warning, though – this is only for those who like their music gentle. There’s a lulling sense throughout, a singer coaxing you into a feeling of safety, making you feel warm and held. If the tone wasn’t interrupted by the glitches and off-kilter elements, it might get a little flat. But it doesn’t. Massif seems to have found a perfect blend.
So yeah, to go back to preaching. If you haven’t heard of Tamu Massif (which you probably haven’t), give him a bit of a listen. And if you have been stuck on the same five Spotify playlists for the last seven years then take your self a little risk – the music scene is exciting as I remember it being right now, dig in and discover yourself a wee gem. Like I just did.
Words by Fran Slater