by Sam Robinson
Latifah Phillips is one talented person. Perhaps best known as the frontwoman for Page CXVI, she’s also a superb songwriter and producer, working out of her studio in Lafayette, Colorado. Now, she’s struck it solo under the pseudonym Moda Spira. As Latifah told us back in April 2014, the name “means ‘just breathe’ in Latin. When I was a little girl I had really terrible asthma. I had to be in an oxygen machine at night with a little mask to breathe really well. And now I’m fine. And I love the idea that when I was a little girl who would have guessed that God would have brought me to a place – to live in Colorado at high altitude – and be a singer with big lungs! I love the idea of naming the project Moda Spira because of that.”
This project began with a few songs here and there – including a cover of The National’s Terrible Love, but two years on, a full-length self-titled album has arrived. And, it’s gorgeous. Sounding very different to Page songs, and Latifah’s other project The Autumn Film, it’s a record that drips with atmospheric soundscapes, R&B influences, and Latifah’s beautiful voice.
The record opens with single She Whispers, a stripped back, beautifully constructed track that builds and builds (like many of the songs on Moda Spira). In the Fight features pulsating synths and loops, and breaks into screeching electronica. Playback utilises autotune and a looping chorus, which matches the ‘endless soundtrack’ that Latifah sings of – this is one of the highlights on the album for me.
Bet On Me features another beautiful, restrained soundtrack, with beautifully poetic words – ‘troubled waters rise and fall, but I know we can make it…’ The Hard Way is a stunning, slow burner; and What You Need is a positive track featuring Latifah’s great voice with piano – ‘I’ll be what you need when you are weak.’
Moda Spira comes in to land with some of the best tracks at the back end. We Belong has a massive Sia-esque chorus, and a real exciting sound to it – and Latifah’s pal Aaron Stumpel pops up on it too. The album closes with Thread the Needle, which is simplistic lyrically, but contains such a great groove.
Moda Spira’s self-titled album is a look at relationship set to a lusciously chilled soundtrack. If you’re a fan of Page CXVI, or new to the music of Latifah Phillips, you’ll fall in love with this. 4/5
Moda Spira by Moda Spira is available now on iTunes. Watch this space for an interview with Latifah about the album in the coming weeks.