Mon 30 Aug 2021
After a period of feeling creatively lost, it was reconnecting with the blissful, bodily enjoyment of music that pulled Merrill Garbus back into the recording studio. After releasing the fourth Tune-Yards album, I can feel you creep into my private life, in 2018, she had felt sure that the time had come for Tune-Yards to retire. I can feel you... was an examination of Tune-Yards' complicity in white supremacy and indebtedness to Black musical traditions, and formed a self-reflexive question mark at the end of a decade of outspoken, polyrhythmic indie music. From 2009 to 2018, Tune-Yards (Merrill and her partner and collaborator Nate Brenner) released four critically-acclaimed albums on 4AD, travelled the world relentlessly to play live shows, and composed the psychedelic score to Boots Riley's surrealist cinematic masterpiece Sorry To Bother You.
After reading Creative Quest, Questlove's guide to creativity, and the Beastie Boys Book, a biography of the raucous hip-hop trio released in 2018, she and Nate hit their rehearsal studio "like athletes" every day. The duo spent 2019 recording and sampling themselves without the time pressure of a professional studio. Often ditching computer screens for live instruments brought them a kind of freedom that was like "stirring up a big pot of creativity", and after weeks of musical exploration, they found that full songs suddenly started to emerge. From this re-ignited creative spark came the songs that make up Tune-Yards' fifth studio album, sketchy. Re-engaging with their love of music-making helped Tune-Yards grapple with the question of how to transform themselves. By making an album that blazes and bursts with pleasure, they call others in, and ask them to do the same.