Blane Muise, aka London singer/DJ/rapper Shygirl, is all about dualism in her music. It could be argued that this is the reason her debut studio album is called Nymph. After all, add an ‘o ‘ to the word and you have an old-fashioned term, derogatory, for a woman who enjoys sex. Whereas a nymph is a spirit of nature from mythology. Both can equally apply here, and Shygirl is unabashed in expressing and enjoying her sexuality. But of course, there’s a softer side too.
Working with producers like Mura Masa and Arca, the artist’s debut is as intelligent and sophisticated as it is sexually charged. She’s clearly got more in common, sonically speaking, with Björk, Greentea Peng, and Solange than conventional pop artists, but is still accessible.
Opener ‘Woe’ dips a toe into trip-hop, with reverb-y vocals and murky synths. Elsewhere, Arca’s production is apparent in ‘Come For Me’ which has a nagging, dark undercurrent. ‘Coochie (a bedtime story)’ is like a coquettish nursery rhyme with beats.
It feels like dirty fairy tales. As with writers like Angela Carter and Alina Reyes, the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood is repurposed into focusing on a heroine with autonomy. ‘Shlut’, with its deliberate misspelling, is a more overt bump n’ grind hip hop track with a declamatory intention: ‘I’m a bad girl, but I don’t know what for/ When it feels so good, I’m-a do what I want’, she purrs.
‘Firefly’ is the most immediate track, pristine glitch-pop that showcases Shygirl’s gorgeous voice, sweetest when used in a higher register. Here, she demands an answer from a potential lover, chanting, ‘You kept me waitin’ on a lie/ Wastin’ all my time’.
Well worth the wait, Nymph is a brilliant debut album: eclectic, coherent, and empowering.
Nymph is out now