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Martina Topley Bird

British singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Martina Topley-Bird has been one of the most compelling voices in alternative and electronic music since the 1990s. First coming to the public's attention through her groundbreaking work with trip-hop godfather Tricky, her subsequent solo albums have showcased her intimate songwriting and warm vocals, reflecting a wide range of influences, from blues and soul to folk and roots rock. She made her solo debut with 2003's Quixotic, followed by the Danger Mouse-produced The Blue God in 2008, then revisited material from both albums on the stripped-down Some Place Simple (2010). All the while, she made key appearances as a guest vocalist on albums by Gorillaz, Common, Leila, Massive Attack, and others. She returned in 2021 with her long-in-the-making fourth LP, Forever I Wait. Born in London, Martina Topley-Bird's family frequently relocated during her childhood. They settled in Bristol and she attended Clifton College, where she sang in the school choir and took piano lessons. In 1993, producer and rapper Tricky (Adrian Thaws), then a member of Massive Attack, heard Topley-Bird singing to herself outside of his house. The two later met, and she sang on his haunting debut single, "Aftermath." The pair continued making music together in addition to becoming romantically involved. Their daughter, Mina, was born in 1995, shortly after the release of Tricky's widely acclaimed debut album, Maxinquaye. Topley-Bird (mistakenly credited as "Martine") sang on nearly every track on Maxinquaye, with almost all of her vocals delivered as first takes, contributing to the album's rawness while also tempering some of Tricky's darker impulses. Topley-Bird subsequently toured with Tricky and performed on his next three albums: the eponymous Nearly God (1996), Pre-Millennium Tension (1996), and Angels with Dirty Faces (1998). After the two broke up, Topley-Bird guested on albums by Primus and David Holmes, and began writing solo material. Her first full-length, Quixotic, included contributions from Mark Lanegan, Josh Homme, David Arnold, Holmes, and Tricky, and was released in Europe by Independiente Records in 2003. It was subsequently shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize. Belatedly issued in the United States by Palm Pictures, it was retitled Anything and featured a different track listing and artwork. Topley-Bird made guest appearances on Diplo's 2004 debut Florida, as well as Gorillaz's 2005 full-length Demon Days. Her second album, The Blue God, appeared in 2008. Produced by Danger Mouse, the album's sound ranged from retro-soul to dark psych-folk. The same year, she guested on albums by Common and Leila. She then began performing and recording with Massive Attack, appearing on 2010's Heligoland and touring with them as both a support act and guest vocalist. Her third LP, Some Place Simple, contained stripped-down re-recordings of songs from her first two records, as well as four tunes written for the album. Featuring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (then of Red Hot Chili Peppers) and production from Holmes and Danger Mouse, the album was released by Damon Albarn's Honest Jon's Records in the U.K. and Mike Patton's Ipecac Records in the U.S. Topley-Bird's "Sandpaper Kisses" was sampled by the Weeknd on his 2011 song "The Birds Part 2." Topley-Bird performed Maxinquaye with Tricky at the Sundance Festival in London in 2012, and she guested on Clark's album Iradelphic. She collaborated with Lanegan and Warpaint on a 2013 cover of the xx's "Crystalised," and opened for Warpaint on their world tour. She sang on the title track to the Prodigy's 2015 album The Day Is My Enemy. The same year, she moved to Baltimore and began recording her next album, which she had started writing in London at the beginning of the decade. The record's collaborators included Massive Attack's Robert del Naja, Benjamin Boeldt (Adventure), Tiadiad, Christoffer Berg, and others. During the set's recording, Topley-Bird appeared on Tricky's 2017 album ununiform, and released the single "Solitude" in 2018. In 2019, Topley-Bird's daughter Mina died by suicide following a psychotic episode. After taking some time off, Topley-Bird finalized her fourth album, Forever I Wait, while living in Valencia, Spain with her partner, and the record was released in 2021.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo


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