The term aphasia refers to a speech disorder caused by damage to the brain.
In feted singer-songwriter Tanya Chua's new Mandarin album, it is a metaphor for the difficulty of communication, of saying what we truly feel. On the title track, she laments: "Turn what we wish to say into babble, each and every one suffering from aphasia".
She has always dealt with the subject of modern, urban relationships in her records from lonely- in-the-city Stranger (2003) to the emotional extremes of Angel Vs Devil (2013).
On her milestone 10th Mandarin album, there is a darker edge to the subject. The album opens with the throbbing electronica of Strange Species - complete with artfully seductive music video - a clear signal that Chua is venturing in a very different direction. Song titles such as Best Way To Die, Peep Show and Cat And Mouse suggest that this is a city with seedy edges, one in which desire and danger lurk.
She sings mesmerisingly on Strange Species: "We belong to the same class of organism/Use skin to mask our true faces/Not clear who you are but the chemistry is unmistakable".
Her fruitful partnership with lyricist Xiaohan has previously yielded hits with striking imagery including Darwin I, Projectile and Amphibian. This time, Xiaohan is single-handedly responsible for all the lyrics to Chua's music.
They continue to complement each other well from the louche vibe of Peep Show ("Come put on what you're good at, a real-life peep show") to the playful and teasing Cat And Mouse ("Want to come home with me, if you can catch up with me").
Ten albums in and Chua is taking chances instead of coasting along. Hearteningly, she still has plenty to say.