“Writing this record was about purging as a mechanism to perpetuate growth.”
- Mira Black
MIRA BLACK REDEFINES ELECTRONICA WITH MESH OF SUBTLE BEATS, A DASH OF JAZZ & INTENSELY AFFECTING VOCALS
“Mira” Produced By Iconic Chicago House Music Founder Vince Lawrence
Ask most artists to characterize their musical persona, and you’re often saddled with, “I sound like no one else. I am unique.” Singer/songwriter Mira Black, however, is wholly obliging to offer a take on her sonic signature: “Imagine Massive attack fronted by Barbra Streisand, with Joni Mitchell writing the lyrics,” she says. “Then take those three to Cirque du Soleil.”
On second thought, perhaps Black—whose upcoming album, “Mira,” veers to the left of any neatly defined musical genre—is indeed that rare artist that defies convention. Produced by iconic Chicago House Music legend Vince Lawrence, the set’s 14 tracks are founded in ambient electronica, but stripped down into sparse stop-and-start beats that trickle, ooze and percolate, ultimately allowing her potent vocals and intimate lyrics to rise to the surface.
“Getting to the core of Mira’s philosophies became our mission,” says Lawrence, whose long string of credits includes co-writing the first House Music hit, 1984’s “On and On,” and the founding of seminal Trax Records. “We started with a rough electronic sketch, but as I heard her sing and saw the poetry in her lyrics—how emotional every word is—I wanted to stay away from too many beats. We ultimately shaped something that is subtle and immersive, where you hear every word she’s saying. It distills past any fluff and is profoundly touching.”
“Mira” will be released early next year on Lawrence’s Slang Recordings, with first single “I Remember Love” launching in the fall. The moody, contemplative song opens with the telling lyric, “I remember when someone thought I was the one…” Mira explains, “The message is to never let the moment pass, not to get jumbled in the things that don’t matter. Don’t miss any opportunity to find true love.”
Like most of her compositions, the message summons Mira’s life experiences. “John Lennon had it right when he sang, ‘Love is all you need.’ Some call me naïve or an innocent, but I believe it’s that simple,” she says. “Writing this record was about purging as a mechanism to perpetuate growth. Those experiences provided tools for authentic analysis and lessons around heartbreak and love.” She adds with a laugh: “My formula for writing: Fall madly in love and get your heart pulled out through your nose.”
As her umbrella theme, Black asks what could be more apropos than the universal theme of love? “Come on, I’m not a soldier, a teacher or a politician. I’m not a mother or a religious leader. I have no illusions that I’m powerful enough to change the world and unite religions. So let’s talk about the moment, this moment, the truth of this moment. Let’s skip the small talk about a ‘more than this’ kind of love. Let’s explore authentic connection.”
Her life’s journey also adds to Black’s connection with heart-driven lyrics. With an intellectually based father from East India and a free-spirited Scottish mother, she was raised around the globe: in India, Canada, the West Indies and America. “As a nomadic child, I’ve had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the human condition,” she says. “I go back to India every few years and see a very different portrait of humanity. Ironically, now I find myself back in Chicago fulfilling my dream, where I spent many of my formative years. This has all allowed me to maintain an open mind.”
Black also brings a diverse past musical life to her current work. In the early 1990s, she toured with popular Canadian folk act Acoustically Inclined. Ironically, the group started as an instrumental ensemble, until members heard Black in the audience spontaneously singing aloud to their melodies. They invited her onstage—eventually to become the group’s vocalist. “I was the one woman traveling with these five cats,” touring folk, pop and jazz festivals, she says. “It was through that experience that I learned to appreciate a more avant garde sound and composition.”
In addition, in 2008, Black released the solo jazz-infused “Live At The Moment,” whose influence peaks through on “Mira,” thanks to producer Lawrence’s inclusion of organic instrumentation like cello and piano, alongside the synthesizers and electronic pulses.
“Working together changed both Vince and me as artists. This record is an experience of two creative spirits from diverse backgrounds painting a beautiful tapestry together,” Black notes. “I sang my melodies and lyrics and he added computer-based brush strokes that complement the sound without hijacking it.”
Lawrence adds, “The very definition of music is ‘organized sound over time.’ Mira and I discarded the traditional rules of chord progression. This is sound design, with the musical elements building from Mira’s vocals and lyrics. We drilled beyond the BS to a basic core message.”
An ideal example is the track “Illusion,” whose essence was born after Black fell in love with a man averse to the risks of commitment because he saw how people could belittle love to a series of physical impulses. She wrote the lyric and melody over Lawrence’s cool swirl of cascading, slowly building blips and beats, singing, “A butterfly consumed by the warmth of his cocoon/The sky awaits, longing to hear your song/But don’t wait too long… or when you get there I’ll be gone/Don’t tell me love is an illusion.”
“Don’t Leave Yet,” on the other hand, is a lamenting look back at failing to appreciate the love one has. Black sings, “I miss the call just to say hello, the call to make sure I know”; while “Crazy” celebrates sexual craving, accompanied by an insistent electronic force field, as she bursts into the chorus of “Be my fantasy, holding back nothing, let’s be crazy.”
In all, while Black may sing about those feelings and experiences we all endure in life, “Mira” is at once daring and experimental, as the album envelops her mighty talent with an unexpected, surprisingly warm harmonic embrace—one she hopes to share any way she can.
“My dream, plain and simple, is to sing,” Black says. “Whether I come to your house and sing while we cook or if I’m performing on television or at a beautiful open-air festival communing with an audience, it’s where I feel the most authentic place inside myself. Music is absolutely where I find my personal sense of divinity.”