Albums, Music, The Revue — May 31, 2017 at 5:30 am

Zola Blood – ‘Infinite Games’ (album review)

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Escapism – habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

In a world that gets more chaotic by the day, an escape from reality is often required. Not everyone can afford to take a few days off and leave the chaos. Fewer people can jump on a plane and travel to an exotic island. Music, though, can provide that momentary reprieve. At its most dazzling, music is our sanctuary and our means of escape. While any bands have crafted a song or two that could be considered escapism, finding an album that personifies the term is extremely rare. Last year, one record – Phoria’s Volition – reached ethereal heights. This year, Zola Blood‘s long-awaited debut album, Infinite Games, is the answer.

Infinite Games is a hypnotic, entrancing affair. Each of its ten songs is delicate, sensual, yet exhilarating. The opening two tracks set the stage for the entire album. On the melodic and spatial “Infinite Games”, the minimalist synths and Matt West’s longing vocals drive the song from its humble beginning to its breathtaking finale. The intensity is increased on “Heartbeat”, but Zola Blood’s lush and intimate foundation is not compromised. West’s vocals are emotive while the soaring production gives the song the feel of a late-night, romantic foray. It is a rendez-vous where nothing needs to be said to realize something special will happen.

Special is how to define the album’s heart and soul that begins with “The Only Thing”. An urgency drives the song to its Maribou State-esque breathtaking levels. The production work and synths create a hypnotic atmosphere, which completely envelopes one’s mind. West’s yearning voice, meanwhile, enraptures the listener and takes her along on a journey deep into his psyche. The majestic “Good Love” is the album’s most ethereal number. The multi-layered composition, highlighted by the sparse production, is immersive, and each element penetrates deep into one’s body. It is a song to get completely lost in and, therefore, allowing West to be the guide that frees our mind.

“Islands” offers a change of pace with its Wild Beast-like experimental-pop base. It also represents Zola Blood’s most captivating piece of songwriting, as West delves into the details of one’s psychological imprisonment.

While you’re leaning out in your chemistry,
Losing all your thoughts and your memories.
Take another hour let the weather pass.
It’s changing with the tide like it always has.
Rip currents surround me
To the rhyme of our melody.
It’s carving out our shape,
As the waves are coming in.

The bookend of this core of four song is the pulsating “Nothing”. The deeper, house-driven bass lines and the stark, driving synths give the track an unexpected trance quality. Consequently, delirium sets in, and the song becomes a mesmerizing dance number. Similar to the previous songs, West has us questioning the reality that is around us, and he takes us on an escapade into the darkest depths of the early hours of the morning. His soothing vocals mask the desperation in his lyrics.

Play the part,
Take a name Burn a heart.
Tear a vein Wonder if you’re wondering,
If it’s fine if it’s just nothing”

The album’s final tracks are the calm after the storm. The stark but tantalizing “Miles and Miles” and “Sihouette” feel like journeys into the heart of the desert and space, respectively. The songs are solitude basked in Radiohead-inspired, trippy epics. Zola Blood channel Local Natives on the ravishing “Play Out”, which features a soaring and infectious chorus and smooth harmonies. The song is a rarity on this album with its central focus on the interplay between two people. The closer, “Get Light”, meanwhile, is a deeply introspective track. Every element is executed with delicate precision, giving the song its sparse and eerie vibe. Yet, it is dazzling, making it the perfect ending to Infinite Games.

This album, however, is more than just a gorgeous piece of work. It is a devastatingly beautiful collection of songs that not only allows us to escape our world but reconsider our place in it. Not many bands are able to create music that simultaneously captivates and challenges us. Then again, since their arrival in 2014, Zola Blood have never been just another band. They’re one of the most thoughtful and imaginative groups today, and Infinite Games is just a glimpse into their immense potential.

Infinite Games is out now via Pond Life. Zola Blood are Matt (vocals/guitar), Ed (Synth), Sam (drums), and Paul (guitar).

Follow the band at: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Featured photo by Mike Massaro

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