Saturday, 10 July 2010

MIA - Maya

Maya - or /\/\ /\ Y /\, to use its 'proper' spelling - is MIA's third studio album, released in the UK on July 12th 2010 and offering another 40-odd minutes of distinctive, FX-laden beats from the British-Sri Lankan artist. This is definitely not one for the faint-hearted, and not an album that's likely to blend into the background - but that by no means should prevent anyone with a passion for musical innovation from giving it a chance.

Maya is all about beats and sound effects, with MIA's own vocals often hidden amongst the industrial and over-stressed computer squeals and machine-like whirrs that take the place of conventional instruments in many of the album's compositions. The overall effect is like the aural equivalent of industrial street dance, with a clear identity all of its own and a deft touch in many places that prevents even multiple layers of samples from becoming anything approaching 'just noise'.

High Points

While a few of the tracks do seem slightly indulgent of the sound samples - at the cost of MIA's own performance - towards the middle of the album this sorts itself out nicely.

Teqkilla and XXXO are particularly good examples of how a strong vocal performance - even including backing vocals - can stand alongside even the grittiest of samples quite elegantly, to create something that is both a banging tune and still a 'song' in the truest sense.

The Verdict

Even the CD cover makes it clear that this album is a broken-down, stripped-back approach to music. The random assortment of floating sound track navigation bars that occupies around half of the image stands as a metaphor for the rethought method of composition that gives Maya its distinctive sound.

This modernity extends to the lyrics, which in no way attempt to be timeless - their mention of the gadgets of the day mean that they will inevitably be locked into the present day. But that is not necessarily a bad thing - should MIA's sound be replicated en masse in the years to come, Maya will be clearly signposted as the first of its kind - and something of a shift in style for MIA that could prove refreshing to fans keen for more of her innovative approach to music to make it to the fore.

Final Score: 67%

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