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Master Of My Make-Believe John Freeman , April 23rd, 2012 11:33

Four years ago, with the release of her debut album Santogold, Santi White was a blast of hip-hop, post-punk, rap and electronica. Since that breakthrough, the singer-songwriter/producer has collaborated with a dazzling array of talent including Kanye West, Nick Zinner, Lykke Li, Spank Rock, Beastie Boys and Amadou & Mariam, as if to ram home her fierce eclecticism.

Like M.I.A, with whom she has previously toured toured, White - now calling herself Santigold, using an 'i' after a legal run-in with a pedantic filmmaker - appears resolute in defining her own career path. That's partly why her second album Master Of My Make Believe is such an intriguing - and defining - proposition. And just like M.I.A, White knows how to make a visual statement. The artwork for Master Of My Make Believe is eye-poppingly decadent, featuring four images of White - as an impervious-looking Don, as two goddess-like golden attendants and as an army officer in a painting by Kehinde Wiley (the first time the celebrated New York artist has ever painted a female subject). With a cover like that, the music inside better be damn fine.

And it is. Master Of My Make Believe is a magnificent beast and a considerable sonic leap from the street stylings of her debut album. From the snapping playground chant of the opening 'Go!' (featuring Karen O), White sets out her glinting smorgasbord of ideas, as confidence surges through the record's 38 minutes. 'This Isn't Our Parade' is a choir-laden, rip-roaring ballad - the sort of song that would knock every warbling, lighters-aloft-anthem into the middle of next week. Even better is post-rave yelp of 'God From The Machine', a controlled rail against the might of the Christian Right.

While the music is bold and thrilling, White has used several tracks on Master Of My Make Believe to paint a sombre world view. 'Disparate Youth' (with its talk of "a life worth fighting for") seems particularly inspired, having been written a year before the youth-led uprisings in a number of Arab states, while she uses the downbeat 'The Keepers', with its "We're the keepers / While we sleep in America our house is burning down" refrain, to focus a sense of frustration closer to home. Both songs succeed in conveying their message with the metallic funk of 'Disparate Youth' being a standout 'Grade A' anthem.

White's innate magpie-eclecticism is all over Master Of My Make Believe. She retreads her punk roots (she fronted the band Stiffed before embarking on a solo career) with aesthetically-chaotic 'Look At These Hoes', staccato raps on the ragga-tripping 'Freak Like Me' and allows her Caribbean recording sessions to seep into the slick reggae of 'Pirate In The Water'. Each track is executed to perfection as Santi morphs with chameleonic pizzazz.

Recently, I met Santi to interview her for AU magazine. She was wonderful company - I'll love anyone who tells me that their "favourite ever, ever band" was The Smiths. I was interested in the concept behind the album's title. For the only time in our conversation, Santi drifted into psycho-babble - the crux being that if you believe in something enough you can make it your reality (she obviously never really, really believed it was her divine right to get a Scalextrix 500 when she was seven-years-old - I did, and it never sodding became reality). I must have looked a bit befuddled, because she then grounded me with this dollop of mysticism - "Somebody told me that Native Americans have this thing called 'The Knowing' and they believe that we all have this knowledge, this intuition inside, which has all the answers but you have to trust that sense of knowing."