Long before it was the only option, Tash Sultana was succeeding thanks to a home recording posted on the internet. The Australian multi-instrumentalist (who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns) is now approaching 100 million YouTube views of their performance of Jungle, a four-year-old, black-and-white one-take of an eight-minute build-up of knotty guitar lines using loop pedals.
So as they return with their second album, they ought to be comfortable with the minimal requirements of locked down music making, but times have changed. There are collaborations with guest singer Josh Cashman and rapper Jerome Farah, co-writes with singer-songwriter Matt Corby, and a three-piece backing band ready to replace the Ed Sheeran-style one person show they did up to now. Even the album cover – a proggy mix of cobras, waterfalls and pyramids that looks like a lost Yes classic – suggests this is a big undertaking.
The songs are lushly produced, with a relaxed feel dominated by Sultana’s echoing, noodling guitar lines and blurred vocals. Their past fondness for reggae has faded – Sweet and Dandy turns out to be a slow-moving criticism of social media rather than a cover of the Toots and the Maytals song – instead soft-focus horns and scatted vocals give a jazzy feel to Crop Circles and Willow Tree.
Songs such as Greed, which sounds angry on paper but slides casually into background music territory here, may gain focus when this extraordinary performer can get back on a stage. Until then, this is a pretty listen that lacks big moments.