By Matt Rocke
Tash Sultana – Flow State
Tash Sultana hails from another dimension. A nine-month period of healing and rehabilitation in her late teens following psychedelic drug use, her assiduous pursuit of perfection and her relentless touring schedule have seen her reconstruct body and soul to a point her musical gifts might be described as well beyond that attainable in a lifetime of conventional tuition. As a solo multi-instrumentalist, conducting every note, she’s nothing short of astounding.
Disappearing to her jungle studio earlier this year, the resultant debut album, Flow State is an acclamation to the psychology of deep immersion in pure purpose. Engineered by Nikita Miltiadou, Sultana was rumoured to have few visitors during the recordings, save the likes of local Matt Corby and the Anderson Paak, who seems to regularly dig what happening in Australia.
The album is released via Tash Sultana’s own label, Lonely Lands and the record journeys like a live set. Fans will find pre-released tracks like ‘Murder to the Mind’ and ‘Myststik’ and a swath of new material. But don’t expect to hear this album at future shows. Sultana’s catharsis is to share inner anguish and salvation by taking her own foundations to the edge.
To see and listen to her is to witness strength in fragility. One suspects those who truly love her, are concerned that she stays in harmony in an industry of peaks and troughs.
Thankfully to this end, ‘Flow State’ sounds remarkably grounded. It’s not long into the album, on ‘Big Smoke’, before it all cuts lose via a sweep picking wave of signature Sultana. The light and seductive ‘Cigarettes’ follows, breaking into a free-range drum ‘n’ bass guitar groove that sets up the tone of the record. The beautiful instrumental ‘Seven’ flourishes back into the uplifting ‘Salvation’ where Sultana’s vocal strengths are reinforced. On ‘Pink Moon’ and ‘Harvest Love’ the vocal switches behind the beat, strained, sweet and almost evangelical. One is invited to stop, listen and contemplate going in and out of madness.
‘Mystic’ then brings in a broader sweep of instruments. (Sultana received a pre-school guitar from her grandfather and guitar is now one of about 20 instruments she can lick including synth, mandolin and saxophone). ‘Blackbird’ closes out the album with a Latin-inspired odyssey channelling Fleetwood Mac (whose tunes often rise up as the lights illuminate everything after her shows).
For many of us, flow states occur through happenstance. However, to conjure and make them habitual takes an enlightened artisan skill. On Flow State, Tash Sultana is willing us by elevation to find ours and her example is exemplary.
Tash Sultana will play ‘Beyond the Valley’ in Gippsland over New Year’s Eve.