I Can Feel Your Creep Into My Private Life
It’s been almost four years since Tune-Yards graced us with their electro pop presence, and latest drop I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (ICFYCIMPL) proves that the duo, made up of Merrill Garbus and collaborator Nate Brenner, haven’t lost their edge.
Tune-Yards made it cool for indie kids to care about politics and society, with all their albums thus far questioning the world around them and urging the consumer to do the same. ICFYCIMPL does not let the listener down in this sense, taking aim at zeitgeist-y issues white privilege, feminist forms and impending environmental armageddon.
Garbus has always showcased an ability to self-interrogate, with questions like “What’s the point if ya never gonna be a Rasta?” showing she acutely understood that she, a cis white female, was borrowing from black culture with her afro beats and r‘n’b influenced sounds, and perhaps even profiting from them. But what is art if you can’t steal – right?
On ICFYCIMPL, Garbus still relies on afro beats, soul and r‘n’b influences to make up her electro sounds, but there is a much bigger focus on electronica and experiential intricacies. Sounds found on the album range tourette-like twitching, looping lo-fi beats, claps, clicks, taps, layer upon layer of vocals and off-kilter samples, all mixed in with touches of classical, jazz, dance, funk and pop.
If that sounds ambitious and a little over the top, that is because it is. It is not exactly easy listening, but if you are able to stick with it, it will prove rewarding, especially as you unearth the lyrics and meanings behind the songs.
Whilst previous albums such as Bird-Brains and Whokill artfully texturised sounds around crunching hooks and changes that were instantly loveable and oh-so-fresh, on ICFYCIMPL Garbus and Brenner take a slightly different approach. While there is still a heavy r‘n’b, soul, funk and afro influence, which have you toe tapping and booty swinging, this time around the duo examine dance and techno elements with classical and experimental sounds, resulting in an ever changing sonic soundscape, that often feels way too thought out and not organic enough.
Whilst the new, busier sounds can be a bit of work to listen to and it will not likely win the band hoards of new fans, existing fans of Tune-Yards will likely devour it. Unfortunately for Tune-Yards though, the electronica and experimental scene at the moment is absolutely magnificent, and ICFYCIMPL does fall a little short – basically, other bands are doing their sound better.
Stand out track Colonizer is one that borrows heavily from techno and dance, but the socio-political lyrics give it a unique edge as Garbus tells us “I smell the blood in my voice” and “I cry my white woman tears”. It’s one of the finest moments on the album.
The operative vocals on Home against the often heavy electronica miss the mark. The song, like the album, proves to be a little offensive to the ears with the rapid and continual changes in styles, speed and vocals. Hammer, Who Are You and Now and Then are also low points on the album, coming across contrived and too derivative.
Tracks ABC 123, Free and Private Life offer upbeat dance and techno feels with drone and industrial dustings. In these tracks Garbus’ utilises her vocal range beautifully with raspy, breathy talking, punk-esque screeching, rapping and some histrionic perfection. A particular high point is in Free when Garbus screams “I keep crying for my truth/ But I am alive and seething/ Don’t tell me I am free,” proving her writing and thinking is as focused and as sharp as ever.
Coast to Coast and Look at Your Hands are other album highlights, they hit their strides with some slower and groovier sounds, delivering more punch than other songs on the album. In these tracks Garbus flexes her electro pop muscles, offering up equal measures free-form with grounding bass and beats.
Despite the album’s production being clearer and rounder than any of the Tune-Yards’ previous work, it doesn’t necessarily prove to be a good thing. Perhaps the joy in a Tune-Yards record was the brilliantly undone, on-the-fly kind of magic that gave their electronic music so much soul. ICFYCIMPL is so thought out it seems to lack that human touch and intuition that made previous albums so effective.