Some artists spin records, but M.I.A. seems to spin eras.
While her last album, 2010’s ‘/\/\/\Y/\’ (Clash review), pulverised us with paranoid precognition about Google-sponsored mass government snooping, her fourth album ‘Matangi’ scampers off to bathe in the arms of Hindu-inflected spiritualism.
It’s a dense and glittering magpie journey that thrusts one foot east and keeps one on the western dancefloors. We find ‘Come Walk With Me’ (video below) a sticky and addictive pop ballad landing where the laconic spirit of ‘Paper Planes’ took off. Equally consistent are the Partysquad-produced floor-fillers of ‘Double Bubble Trouble’ and ‘Y.A.L.A.’, which build upon Diplo’s post-Kingstonian foundations of 2005’s debut, ‘Arular’.
The Weeknd guests on a couple of shimmering cuts, ‘Exodus’ and ‘Sexodus’, before we’re arrested by ‘aTENTion’. The latter is a slick political art skit reportedly written with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which pushes past her miasmas of political outrage to prove that she can balance her dogmatic frowns with the low-end loving that first triggered Clash’s love for her.
It’s a busy old party and ‘Matangi’ shines as M.I.A.’s most consistent work since her debut, with notes of praise to producer Switch who unifies the dawn-delivered WAVs of seven different producers with cohesive gloss.
Now the bad news: we harbour a fear that this outsider Tamil rapper has forged an album too dense, too challenging, too easterly facing and thus too far removed from the centripetal mechanics of western hip-hop to succeed against its more conservative rap competitors.
Though it’s exactly for this reason that Clash loves it. Yes, her myriad ideas are still tumultuous, but there’s precious few other musicians out there attempting such an ambitious and impassioned collage of words, rhythms and concepts.
This collection’s painting of a spiritual destination suggests an artist who has finally surpassed her fervent anger. The weight of her spinning worlds has allowed ‘Matangi’ to emerge as an alluring new departure point for Maya’s scintillating unwritten chapters yet to come. Welcome to M.I.A. 2.0.
Words: Matthew Bennett
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Clash’s new Pop Issue is in newsagents now, and available from us right here – check out what’s inside here.
Stream ‘Matangi’ in full via Deezer, below…