Tash Sultana is both the archetype modern day pop success story and a throwback to a more retro era for the solo musician. Over the last 18 months, the Melbourne-born lass has skyrocketed from her word-of-mouth social media circuit to become the biggest thing out of her city since deconstructed coffee. What’s refreshing is how much the 21-year old lets her talent as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer speak for itself: potential sympathy-point sob stories about her previous drug-addiction and homosexuality have been pushed into the background.
On her debut EP Notion
, Sultana combines sweeping guitar arpeggios, sustained synth-beds and tingling electric drum loops to make music that is often evocative and exciting. Which is lucky, because both she and her debut EP really could have come across as a blissfully aware, all-too-perfect parody of Melbourne millennials. Notion
’s unflinching spiritual poses, and its tightrope balance of DIY composition and hi-tech production are all ripe for cynicism but Sultana makes it work. The title track is ethereal and flowing. ‘Synergy’ is built around a steady yet dance-worthy bass line and a wordless, slo-mo chorus. ‘Gemini’ takes the best of both as a catchy hand-clap loop pushes the endless synths along at a glacial pace. “I got myself into the sweetest disposition/Only because I followed my intuition,” croons Sultana. There’s not much to argue about there.
There is no better showcase for her potential than the luminous precision of ‘Jungle’. Sultana the guitarist superbly welds a swinging rhythm to a U2-style cascading lead and Sultana the producer sprinkles just enough reverb on her vocals to create a yearning atmosphere. The result is a track that does everything right and all without feeling either showy or hard-fought.
For such a bold opening salvo, Notion
is undoubtedly more potential than portent. It’s a Frankenstein, with Sultana pitching all her ideas together across these four songs. Extended live jams entitled ‘The Big Smoke’ really do push into self-indulgence, with Sultana beatboxing, whipping out some funk, misjudging the build-and-release and otherwise just padding out the run time. As she settles down, her selectivity will improve and any traces of grab-bag medleys should turn into fully-fledged songs.
Halfway through a tour and with her maiden LP in recording, Sultana announced that she was taking a break to recover from laryngitis. Understandably, there was a bit of unease around whether she can pick up where she left off. The modern audience is impatient, easily distracted and fickle. Not that there’s any need to remind her of that. If there’s one thing Tash Sultana has conclusively proved in her fledgling career and in Notion
, it’s that she knows how to make music that is creative, authentic and well-pitched for today’s ears.