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Fronted by singer/songwriter Tirzah Mastin, Tirzah's equally challenging and alluring songs pair Mastin's down-to-earth vocals and Mica Levi's experimental production. Rooted in U.K. garage, grime, and British R&B, the duo's collaboration evolved from the disarming dance-pop of 2013's underground hit "I'm Not Dancing" to the hypnotic, raw R&B of 2018's debut album, Devotion, and the gauzy yet fragmented mix of electronic and rock on 2021's Colourgrade. Even as the project's sound changed, the intimacy and honesty of Tirzah's music remained paramount. Growing up in Braintree, a small town in Essex, England, Mastin listened to the likes of Barry White, Tina Turner, and Whitney Houston. After attending a classical concert featuring a harp when she was seven, she began lessons on the instrument. When she was 13, Mastin earned a scholarship to attend the Purcell School for Young Musicians in Watford, an English town north of London. As a student at the school, she and Levi -- who was studying violin, viola, and composition -- struck up a friendship. They soon began making music together, recording sketches of Mastin's songs with Levi on guitar in the school's tech room. However, Mastin felt constrained by the school's intensive program, and after graduation she opted to study textile design at the London College of Fashion; meanwhile, Levi went on to form Micachu & the Shapes and become a renowned composer. The duo continued to record for fun, and started releasing music in the early 2010s. Levi played an early version of their first song, "I'm Not Dancing," at a 2012 DJ set at the Boiler Room; soon after, Tirzah signed to Greco Roman, the label co-founded by Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and also home to more polished acts like Disclosure. The label released I'm Not Dancing, which blended garage beats and an odd recorder sample into something ear-catching, as part of an EP in August 2013. Around that time, Tirzah also issued the What's the Time mixtape, which captured Mastin and Levi's music at its most spontaneous. Tirzah returned in April 2014 with the No Romance EP, a slightly more streamlined version of their style. The following year, the duo issued another EP on Greco Roman, Make It Up, and appeared on a limited-edition 12" with Micachu, Mumdance, and Nozinja. Mastin also appeared as a guest vocalist on Dels' Petals Have Fallen in 2014 and Baauer's Aa in 2016. She and Levi then formed the dance side project Taz & Meeks, working with Brother May and Coby Sey on 2018's Curl EP. That year also saw the release of Tirzah's acclaimed full-length debut for Domino Records, Devotion. Once again produced and mixed by Levi (with additional mixing by Kwes.), the album featured another collaboration with Sey as well as a flowing, R&B-inspired sound and more confessional lyrics. Following an appearance on the track "Today" from Mura Masa's 2020 album R.Y.C., Mastin reunited with Levi and Sey -- now a full-fledged member of the project -- on Colourgrade, an even dreamier and more experimental set of songs informed by motherhood, family, and community. Upon the album's October 2021 release, it peaked at number six on the U.K. Independent Albums chart. Additionally, that year Tirzah and Sey contributed remixes to Lafawndah's The Fifth Season (Versions) EP. Lafawndah returned the favor on June 2022's Highgrade, a collection of Colourgrade remixes that also included work by Arca, Actress, and Loraine James.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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