Nadine Shah — Fast Food

Apollo |
Rich as plum jam, but nowhere near as sweet.

· · ·

There is so much more to the human voice than the words we speak. Articles upon theses upon books upon libraries have been written on the subject, teasing out the intricacies of microexpressions, delving deep into subconscious selections among synonyms, compiling a vocabulary of that crafty beastie, body language. Within the tiniest fraction of a second, we can decide if our interlocutor is untrustworthy — too much eye contact, a catch in the breath, a tone that is just a hair too nasal.

Nadine Shah, 31, South Tyneside is blessed with a hearty instrument. Her voice is throaty and deep, as rich as plum jam, but nowhere near as sweet, invoking implicit trustworthiness with every syllable. Through her magnificent velvety pipes Shah quavers intensely, imperiously, conferring unquestionable certainty upon her every utterance.

Overcomplication is too often a tendency of greener artists. The desire of the debutant to prove their talent can sabotage even the most proficient — an unflattering flavour of earnestness sours the whole dish. Shah's compositional style of simple, unchanging loops of similarly simple musical intervals (with a particular affinity for open fifths) is quasi-Ravellian in its ingenuity. Why convolute your compositions with needless, fanciful clutter? Sometimes, less is more.

Of course, it is often the case that less is, in fact, less. In unskillful hands, constant repetition can set adrift all but the most attentive of listeners. Shah neatly sidesteps this particular complication. Fast Food is a work of creeping tension, drawing the listener in with its musky intensity. Hailing from so far north she is practically Scottish, Shah takes particular pleasure in darkening her vowels: 'blush,' 'mother,' 'love.'

None can shake the conviction of Nadine Shah. Whether expressing coolest dissatisfaction or most desperate supplication, the allure remains.