London-based trip-hop / dark-pop quartet Zola Blood take their immersive, mesmerizing sound to new territories on their captivating new EP, ‘Two Hearts’.
Zola Blood have garnered comparisons to Massive Attack since their formation a half-decade ago. Early singles from the group comprised of Matt West (vocals), Ed Smith (synths), Paul Brown (guitars), and Sam Cunnington (drums) were hypnotic and entrancing. They reached grander heights following their magical 2017 debut album, Infinite Games. The quartet could have continued down this pathway, building a legacy that would see them assume the throne occupied by their trip-hop mentors. Instead they have embraced subtle evolution. More specifically, they’ve expanded their immersive sound and waded into a territory occupied by another legendary band. Zola Blood’s new EP, Two Hearts, is the outcome of the band’s progression.
Two Hearts is another captivating accomplishment from the London-based group. It commences in familiar territory, as the title track booms with a steely embrace of pulsating rhythms and blasts of synth. Through the dazzling bleakness shines West who vocalizes the instant chemistry that ignites “like a wildfire” between two people. As quickly as they bond, their relationship falls apart, and the silence between them, too, spreads “like a wildfire.”
The haunting “Silver Soul” is Zola Blood at their finest. It also reveals the band entering a new space. Intoxication fills the air but the experience is not simply dreamlike. It is surreal, matching the out-of-body moments heard in Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and Atoms for Peace’s Amok. Like Thom Yorke, West’s lyrics are mysterious and poetic in this lament to a place he once knew. However, that place no longer resembles what it used to be.
This entry into Radiohead terrain continues on the stark “Only You” that sounds like the companion to the Oxford icons’ solemn, electronic ballad “All I Need”. This song of a desperate man seeking redemption features background percussion that mimics the throbbing pulse of our protagonist. Desperation is at the center of the dizzying “Out of Time.” Its delicate orchestration creates a spatial atmosphere that is perfect for a space walk. West’s lyrics also point to a person who wants to escape from the world. He seeks comfort in his mother’s arms and in the heavens, simultaneously searching to be relieved of the pain and to be reborn.
In some ways, Zola Blood have been reborn. They continue to craft music that is one part fantasy and another part cinematic. On Two Hearts, however, they take us not to the outer edges of space or down a rabbit hole. Instead, they make us realize we can find escapism and peace within ourselves and each other.
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