Swedish Singer TULA's Mesmeric Dark-Pop EP
A few months ago, TULA released SKIN, her debut EP exploring a shadowy atmosphere in which she dives deep into dark-pop tones. The result is a stirring five-track collection that finds the Swedish born, Berlin-based artist proving that she deserves to be illuminated under the brightest spotlight.
TULA told The Music Mermaid about SKIN:
I write the embryos of my songs whilst walking — I walk every night with my dictaphone. Wherever I am in the world, I always do this. I listen to it whilst having a coffee the next morning — before the mind is too critical — then I take out the stuff I feel has something that I can continue to investigate. If I work with a co-producer, I send it over [to them] or sing it [for them] in the studio.
I like the walking process because as I move, I see things I can take inspiration from, as if coming up with a soundtrack for the things I see around me, and often the lyrics that come were in me for a long time, gathered [from] life situations. It’s the closest I get to my own stories.
Studio is like a deep dive for me. It can be fantastic [but it] can be hard too. Sometimes a day feels like five minutes and at other times, five minutes feels endless. It’s important that the vibe is good so that risks can be taken. SKIN is the first chapter of a story that will continue. The name SKIN just came to me — I saw it graphically in front of me and [it felt right]. After, I realized what I meant by it. The mind is a strange thing…
SKIN kicks off with “Colours,” a tender electro anthem rich with color. Slinking percussion pulses beneath TULA’s hypnotic vocal echoes, joined soon by a light piano line faded in the distance. There’s a lot going on here — layers upon layers of bittersweet electronica pushing against the overarching dance-pop vibe of the track — but it’s all so robust and urgent, an alternative earworm setting the scene for the darkness to come on SKIN. Following the EP’s opener is “Another Kind Of Red,” plinking along with the quick bop of electro beats as TULA’s voice — equal parts sweet and shaky — delivers clipped lyrics sung as if in pieces. The track buzzes with the sense of quiet excitement bubbling beneath the surface and then suddenly, it erupts into an addictive alt-pop arrangement. Percussion throbs, there’s the edgy introduction of a fleeting searing guitar note, and synth sparkles in the distance. But then the arrangement simmers back down to welcome the return of its gentle beginning. And so on — a dreamy, wild singalong in which everything about TULA’s talent meshes perfectly.
The halfway point of SKIN finds “Glow,” bursting with dark energy. Haunting harmony guides the track, echoes of TULA’s breathy delivery trailing a quick-paced synth base. Rising from the shadows comes the climax, layers of dance beats tripling their speed to bombard the eerie arrangement. On “Wake,” more soft, spooky vocal reverbs abound. The production here is fairly minimal for the most part — TULA’s voice is an instrument in itself, but it’s joined occasionally by thick percussive slaps and neon synth swells diving and resurfacing behind the versatile vocals. SKIN ends with its dynamic conclusion, “Bullet.” It’s the darkest, most mesmeric song off the EP, led once again by TULA’s vocals (at their best here) and an icy electronic arrangement buzzing and stomping its way beneath the dreary lyrics. It’s a slick slow burn, but there are moments of aggressive grandeur that make it an intense (and therefore beautiful) end to an EP that challenges the status quo of electro-pop.