Something strange happens around the 40 second mark of Ailsa Tully’s latest single Greedy. The drums stutter on the off-beat and a wash of electric guitar unfurls into the suddenly empty space. It’s the musical equivalent of a trust fall – a single moment of weightlessness followed by a soft landing. The moment sets a precedent for the rest of Greedy’s runtime – here is a track that deals in slow lifts and sudden falls.
Tully’s vocals have the click and snap of heavy compression, but her voice remains tantalisingly at a distance in the mix. Artists like Billie Eilish and Kid Cudi have helped popularise a production style that presents the voice with almost painful intimacy, and despite sharing these artists’ fondness for low-fi textures, Tully successfully bucks this trend. Greedy is not a track that purrs uncomfortably deep into your ear – on the contrary, Tully’s vocal melodies benefit from the space the mix affords them. ‘I bruise my skin, imagining…’ runs the lyrics on the pre-chorus and there’s the sense of terrible things hiding just under the surface. Sparse harmonies carry the chorus, which sees Tully’s voice lift into a range that can fairly be described as ethereal, even as the lyrics become almost incomprehensible.
I can’t remember the last time I heard reversed guitar tracks on a song*. It’s an unusual sound, beloved of The Beatles and about a million prog bands, and its distinctive fade-in/hard-cut effect gives Greedy’s second half an odd psychedelic twang. There are no sitars or gongs, but you do get the sense that the studio in which the song was recorded has at least one blacklight poster, or perhaps an always-on lava lamp. The muted stabs of electric guitar accentuate this vibe and the adjective trippy becomes irresistible as the song draws to a close. Greedy doesn’t outstay its welcome, clocking in at a brisk 4 minutes. But just like a trust fall, the feeling lingers long after you’ve been hauled back to your feet and embraced.
* – I’ll always (perhaps regrettably) associate the sound with Give It Away by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it must have been used at least once in the 30 years since Anthony Kiedis instructed us to do a little dancing and to drink a little water.