Martina Topley Bird is one of British pop’s great mavericks. When she first cast strange and exhilarating shadows over contemporary music on Tricky’s ‘Maxinquaye’ in 1995 no one was expecting the arrival of such a precocious young talent. The times were demanding conservative, retro-minded Britpop.
Instead, the pair conjured up an intimate yet other-worldly form of down tempo, with Martina’s vocals acting as celestial foil to the blunted genius of the music, causing critics to fall over themselves and cash-till’s to work overtime.
Further collaborations on ‘Pre-Millennium Tension’, ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ and ‘Nearly God’ saw Martina acting as both musical and visual foil. Dazzling stars in a dull universe, they subverted gender politics and mainstream pop, their chalk’n’cheese synergy chalking up platinum sales en route.
Martina has guested on a who’s who of contemporary music, including David Holmes, Gorillaz, DIPLO, Primus and The John Spencer Blues Explosion, developing her craft as both a singer and songwriter along the way.
Whilst much modern chart music has given up on breaking new ground, Martina’s career has been about deconstructing the past and building something more fantastical in its place. Her solo debut,’ Quixotic’ (2003) received a Mercury Prize nomination and prompted Mojo to declare it “a sensual and endlessly inventive record.”And who better to embark on her second voyage with, then, than Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton, mastermind of pop situationists Gnarls Barkley, and widely regarded as modern pop’s most visionary thinker. The result was The Blue God.
2009 saw her tour with Massive Attack and now she is back with her new album “Some Place Simple” on Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon label. Some Place Simple’ is a radical departure from anything she has done before, music OMH call it “a raw and unforgiving exercise that few artists would be brave enough to attempt” : bare boned reworkings of songs from the album ‘The Blue God’ and The Mercury Award nominated Quixotic, in addition to 4 new songs. The Independent call it “her most distinctive and engaging set so far, a triumph of imaginative subtlety”