One of my favorite debuts of 2014 is English indie-rock band Glass Animals’ ZABA: It’s rich, textured, cerebral and, frankly, unafraid of getting weird. Dark, jazzy harmonies steadily build and seamlessly blend with hip-hop and a lot of soul, coalescing into a mesmerizing trip of a record. The band cites Kanye West, Charles Darwin, Nina Simone and The Velvet Underground as influences and sounds as if the best parts of each came together on each track (except it’s probably too mellow for Kanye).
The name, ZABA, comes from one of frontman Dave Bayley’s favorite childhood stories, William Steig’s The Zabajaba Jungle. It follows a boy, Leonard, on a fantastical, dreamlike adventure tearing through a jungle full of nuanced oddities like carnivorous flowers and petrified monsters. It’s a tale defined by child-like awe, exoticism, and discovery, and incidentally, this is pretty much analogous to the experience that is listening to ZABA. (The entire album can be found on Spotify here.)
That may sound like the record is all over the place, but it’s actually quite clinical in structure. Everything stacks naturally: Earlier, warmer melodies welcome, are joined by waves of slow electronics, building towards the trippiest sounds and lyrics at the ends. On top of all the moving parts sits Bayley’s vocals, intriguing, smooth, whimsical, and balanced.
The video below is from their recent stint at Meltdown Festival and features “Black Mambo,” the second track off the record. It’s enchanting, dark, and happily weird—with a light show to match.