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THE bad news, such as it is, is that Tamara Schlesinger’s new project, Malka, doesn’t sound much like much of her previous work. The good news is that Tamara Schlesinger’s new project, Malka, still sounds instantly and unmistakably like her.
With a CV that included international gymnastics and fashion design even before she’d started singing for a living – you may have heard her for the first time singing “These Boots Are Made For Walking” in the background of “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” – Schlesinger was never likely to be content with just having the one idea as a musician. Her career began with a solo album 2004’s “From Home To Home”), before evolving into the exuberant carnival that was 6 Day Riot.
6 Day Riot made three albums, quickly, befitting the skittish energy animating the group: 2007’s “Folie A Deux”, 2009’s “6 Day Riot Have A Plan”, 2010’s “On This Island”. It’s arguable that the only thing wrong with them was the timing – at the time 6 Day Riot released these splendid records, ukuleles, violins and upright basses were evidence of an idiosyncratic imagination, rather than standard props for over-earnest young men with overgrown beards. Live, 6 Day Riot looked as spectacular as they sounded. Among the headliners who must have wondered whether volunteering to follow them was really that good an idea were Belle & Sebastian, Seth Lakeman and Deacon Blue.
Schlesinger’s second solo album, “The Procession”, appeared in 2012. It was an obvious and conscious step away from the dazzling circus of 6 Day Riot, a gentler, more reflective and more experimental album that placed a greater focus on Schlesinger’s voice.
The decision to record under the new name of Malka may look like the beginnings of a new band, but it’s actually more of a solo project than any before – Schlesinger plays all the instruments herself. It will be her sixth album she has released on her own label, the unbetterably named Tantrum.
The new record does contain a few traces of what Schlesinger has learnt along the way – the voice-centred minimalism of “The Procession” honed further on “The Way Down” and “I Never Needed Love”, and some of the musical playfulness of 6 Day Riot resuscitated on “My Body”, as well as on a surprisingly affecting cover of Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”, the Euro-dance floor-filler recast as a melancholy torch ballad.
But mostly, Malka is something altogether new and surprising – although, by this point in Schlesinger’s career, that shouldn’t be surprising at all.
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