“I’ll make you fine again,” she reminds. Is fineness what we want?
Lovesick, we said once, all our musculature and skeleton whacked out imbalanced, dripping like this fluttering organ, this spinning coo. “I’ll make you,” and a blip, a spin, and back “I’ll make you fine again, again.” Devotion was pressreleasedly pitched as “straight-up love songs,” but devotion is the holy wholly. Things repeat — the feeling falling can’t be straight-up. It’s all at once interdirectional. It’s arrhythmic, full of blood and air popping, lovesick. And then,
“This is so pure, this feels rare, I just want you to know that I’m here for you you make me stronger so I’m here to catch you don’t worry ‘bout worries I won’t let them get you,” and I feel fine.
“Do you know, I think I’d be fine if you met someone/ It’s not even like we were doing nothing wrong/ I just need to find something that would take me back to how I was before.” Unfine, we circle our selves. Devotion’s move into rhythm and blues, ballad and bang, is defined by all of love’s contradictory aspects. We meditate when we could mediate. “Fine Again” trusted that want’s weight wouldn’t break the skin; “Do You Know” retreats into monologue and repeats its one question until you don’t, you can’t, you never know. “She brings this chaos, this unraveling to the project,” Tirzah said of her friend and collaborator, Mica Levi, who produced these songs. In a sound like this, where moments loop just as quick as they start, instability feels sustainable. Loving feels logical, backwards. Levi’s lolls and blips envelop the ache of Tirzah’s alto, essentially, fundamentally. What if loving is part chaos? Take me back to how I was before? How were you before? Isn’t it how you were now?
“All I want I want you to try and remember what it was like to have been very young. And particularly the days when you were first in love; when you were like a person sleepwalking, and you didn’t quite see the street you were in, and didn’t quite hear every thing that was said to you. You’re just a little bit crazy. Will you remember that, please? is you.”
If devotion throws us out, it throws us back, too. Devotion is the sound of the whole love at once, a love song extrapolated, a kiss as a cosmos, gladly. “I like you/ You’re like to me. If it’s not strictly Euclidean, it’s at least similarly dissimilar: we can match each other with what we give and what we get, what we take and what we make.
And, in the end, if you come onto me, then I’ll come onto you. Reciprocal want is the geometry of ordinary experiences. Bodies and feelings get flung up and laid down like lines in triangles, like plucked pianos and the kiss of chimes. The disaffected “Affection” doesn’t come after or because of “Holding On,” because love and loss and want and won’t are part of the same patchwork. Devotion moves the “straight-up love song” up and over and out of its self. “Don’t say you want only affection.”
Tirzah Mastin, Tirzah, began making music at Purcell School for Young Musicians, in Watford, in England, where she met Mica Levi, where she was learning how to play the harp. She enrolled at London College of Fashion, studied textile design, released I’m Not Dancing in 2013, then No Romance in 2014, both on Greco-Roman, both recorded with Levi. In addition to her music, Mastin works full-time as a designer at a print agency; she and her partner, Kwake Bass, recently had a baby.
“She says that I bring the calm,” Tirzah told Colleen Kelsey in a Times interview, regarding Levi, mostly regarding her self. Chaos and calm, the lasering synth spiraling and the steady stepping beat of “Basic Need,” is love via Devotion. Like a garment stitched from a universe of textiles, love is what we say about love, how it was and how it will be.
And then “Guilty,” a shock of electric guitar. “And then, distortion.” If it didn’t break down, it wouldn’t integrate into. Distortion is metabolism, the crunch of closeness. Distortion teaches us we can love again, even in loving. Loss is love removed. This is a stunning love song. “And then the silence of space,” loss, shows us what to do.
“What are you gonna do what are you gonna do about it?”
“So listen to me.”“So listen to me.”
A reminder: “Don’t raise your voice to me.” If love is an equalization of wants and gets, it’s important to call out when it’s not love. Maybe that’s why the drums land harder on “Go Now,” why Tirzah’s athletic voice sounds resolute. Devotion is off-kilter, an exploratory treatment of feeling love that paints a sound where all lovings are valid, where it’s not longer a singularly homogenized sensation. Love can sound like anything, can look like anyone. This is quietly radical. But if love is everything, not everything gets to be love. Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other; things have to help each other, equally.” Don’t raise your voice to me.” Don’t lose track of that.
“I think it just came about like that, really. We thought, Wait a minute. We’ve got loads of love songs, and we just need to make a straight-up kind of love song album… It’s really just a matter of trying to be sincere. I think it was just trying to be sincere with each thing and hope that it resonated.” (Tirzah Mastin, in conversation with Nylon.)
“I know we are made from love and fantasy/ I know we will be here for eternity,” Tirzah sings on the last song, “Reach,” over boom and snare, her voice curling. We want, try, and time splits those markers. We give and we lose, erode and scar and hoist. Tirzah’s Devotion, these 14 numeral moments, sketch a way toward communicating loving better. Love and its songs are all these things, fashion and textile, joke and confession, milled piano ballad and club-drum slap. It has to be everything, chaos and calm and resolving and receding, shapeless resolute — how could love sound like one thing?
And in the end (as at the beginning), devotion isn’t sensation between two people, but in and of and over every one’s version of life, the sound of love as it was, as it can be, as it will be. The sound of loving is consistent, even as it appears in radically different instances. The mechanism of love song fits all bodies, all modes. It lands on ears, it laps and licks and it does no harm. If it did harm, we wouldn’t listen. If it didn’t receive every devotee, it would be a lie. If it didn’t make us sing, we wouldn’t call it love.