Mal Devisa’s music is seemingly allergic to categorization. Sometimes she whispers, sometimes she roars. Sometimes she raps, sometimes she sings. There’s some of Tune-Yard’s inventive looping and vocal styling, but there’s also direct, Tracy Chapman-esque, eye-level storytelling that cuts through a body like touching an electric fence. Devisa has influences, but no direct predecessors. Her blend of singer-songwriter accessibility and chip-on-her-shoulder grit is impossible to unspool into separate threads, and the combination is deeply compelling. Her debut full-length, Kiid, came out earlier this year.
Mal Devisa is the performing name of Deja Carr, who is building a solo career after leaving the band she played with through her teens, Who’daFunk It. This record was financed on Kickstarter and released independently, and Devisa’s obvious bent toward control of her own vision and devotion to self-production is admirable and evident on Kidd’s every track. Much of the record is sparse, comprised of Devisa and one or two other self-played instruments, though occasionally looped vocal tracks and percussion are used to room-filling, stunning effect. I found myself holding my breath for seconds at a time during album closer “Dominatrix” in particular. There is nothing settled about this record, or the message of fierce indepdence and ambition its creator comes with. It’s destabilizing the way great art always is. To encounter it is to be shaken up; changed. Everything about Kiid, from its genre-hopping to its sudden cut-off, implies that this is but the tippy, tippy-top of what Mal Devisa has to say.