Unbridled and Ablaze – Zialand (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ZiaVinylFront-highres_previewWhilst many bands chose references and soundbites which say more about what they think they sound like rather than what they actually do, Zialand’s third and latest album arrives with the perfect tag line. Cinematic Soul Pop. And that is pretty much all you need to know, though obviously there is a lot more to her fabulous music than that, but it’s the perfect jumping off point.

I first encountered Zialand in a much stranger musical world, that of John Fryer’s Black Needle Noise adding vocal textures and sonic beauty to his mercurial creations, then, in this guise, driving her own creative vehicle and via the two previous singles, tracks which taken together brilliantly mark the boundaries of her personal musical world. If Landslide plays with brooding yet thoughtful synth-pop and Shelter takes a more soul-blues, classic piano line, both capture the wonderful restraint, elegance and late night hush that is the hallmark of her music.

Chose any song on Unbridled and Ablaze and you are immediately taken to a nighttime world, one of dark, neon-infused streets and cool up town clubs, of noir-ish scenes and soft-focused, urban drama, of romance and reflection. It is music which before you even concentrate on the specifics of the lyrical message or musical content, its very presence sets scenes, a score perhaps to a film yet to be written or a dream yet to be dreamt. Such are its ethereal qualities, its very essence.

As an album it’s all about space. Don’t Look Back is wonderfully dramatic but built only on cascades of vocals and the most minimal of piano lines and even more driven songs, such as Fever, are confident enough to saunter slowly through soft beats and sultry brass rather than rush to impress the listener. And that is the real charm here, Zialand’s ability to take only a fraction of what other artists would deem necessary and still fashion it into something so resolutely understated and so wonderfully restrained that its impact is as striking as any full band effort or more complex musical salvo.

This is music as watercolour painting, music which sketches the basic lines and then proceeds to add only the gentlest, most translucent and sparsest of musical hues, the space and the suggestion allowing the listener to see, or in this case hear, the whole picture. The phrase “less is more” may be a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they  contain a kernel of truth. Less is more is also the only cliched thing you will find associated with this gorgeous music.


Shelter – Zialand (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

SHELTERIf last time out Zialand’s single Landslide dealt in slick and sultry electro-pop, here she takes a more naturalistic route. No less cool and soulful, Shelter is closer to the soul ballads of old than the more cutting edge sonic landscape she wandered through before. But her way is to reference rather than repeat and both singles mark points along a pathway that shows a modern artist using everything available to her to make timeless, classic sounding songs.

The tone is late night smoky cocktail bar, the delivery unrushed and all the more powerful for it, the vocals wander between strong and emotive, and ethereal and breathy. There is as much space and atmosphere between the piano notes that drive the song as within them and the beats and backing serve only the song and nothing more. Gentle brass builds and Hammond swells are merely the icing on the cake.

This is music out of time, production may pin point it as a modern creation but its essence is the sort of ballad that has been played for 60 or so years, in blues joints and jazz clubs, uptown bars and down town cafes across the world. As always Zialand makes music that exists devoid of fashion or agenda, it is pure and perfect. It isn’t every day that I get to sign off a review with a statement like that!


Landslide –  Zialand (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

LANDSLIDE-900-1Music can’t help but be anything other than the sum total of the artists creative past and the more mercurial and wide ranging that is, the more likely the end result is something unique and ploughing a singular furrow. Zialand’s musical make up reads like a strange contemporary fantasy novel, a backstory penned by the likes of Neil Gaimen or Terry Gilliam. A diet of Chicago classics and west coast cool from a young age, growing up in Greenland and Norway, a gospel choir, piano lessons, an LA story, an Australian rebirth and collaborations with British post-punk producer and legend John Fryer.

But that was then and this is now and now is all about an album under her own name, Unbridled and Ablaze, which will be out in spring and a first single, Landslide, as an initial calling card. Given the myriad musical threads which run through her DNA, Landslide blends some familiar sounds, sultry electro-pop, sensuous R&B and perfectly measured soul vibes, it’s just that it is woven together in a seamless and singular way. It is smooth, dark and delicious, brilliantly understated and expertly delivered.

If you are worried about where pop music goes next beyond the identikit cloning that the industry serves up, where soul music heads now, to shake off the chart usurpers who claim to be re-inventing it for the good of all, then look no further than Zialand’s inspired first single and brace yourself for the album to follow. 2018 is looking pretty interesting already!

For all things Zialand list the website HERE

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