Some bands seem blessed with a seamless upwards trajectory, others, however, are faced with a relentless uphill struggle. For the long-buzzed about ZOLA BLOOD it was definitely the latter. The London four-piece quickly caught the attention of blogs when they emerged back in 2014 with their Meridian EP and the pulsating AA-side of ‘Pieces Of The Day’ / ’Play Out’, seeing the band stake a claim for being ones to watch when it came to experimental electronica.
But then came the album, an arduous process for all first-timers, however, one made altogether more complicated without suitable finances. The band opted to crowd-fund the release of their debut album Infinite Games, which was wholly funded by a Pledge campaign and which exceeded their initial target (they reached 174%.) Spurred on by the kindness of family, friends and strangers, they completed the album, the title of which was derived from a book by writer James P. Carse, whose themes of living a freer life and eschewing societal expectations are placed into the narrative of the songs. “In broad daylight, I swear I’m alright, alright” croons vocalist Matt West on his quest to find solace in a personal truth, the beats slowly swelling to a climax in the title-track.
Old favourites ‘Heartbeat’ and the aforementioned ‘Play Out’ are aired once again on Infinite Games, losing none of their relevance. They continue to be standouts of the bunch, the soft guitar at the opening of ‘Heartbeat’ drawing listeners deeper into the belly of Zola Blood before the bolder electronica seeps through to the surface. More recent singles ‘The Only Thing’ and ‘Nothing’ ooze past the refines of Zola Blood’s earlier efforts with sonic oomph and officiously throbbing bass, whilst ‘Islands’ loses none of its mystique, the opening clicks and brassy synth creating an aura that is simultaneously murky and entrancing. West’s voice is omnipresent, weaving its way around the keys and beats in a manner that is both confident yet understated. His voice soars on the down-tempo ‘Silhouette’ as he tries on his Thom Yorke shoes for size, before dialling proceedings down to something altogether more simple in closer ‘Get Light’.
There is much to love in Infinite Games, should you apply the appropriate care and attention, but if you are after punchy electro-pop your efforts are better placed elsewhere. For this is a musician’s album, one of painstaking arrangements, experimentation and pure passion. Zola Blood are not interested in creating hit singles but aim instead to weave a longer tale, and in that way, Infinite Games is a suitable testament to their vision.
Zola Blood’s Infinite Games is released 26th May via Pond Life.