As one of the first acts signed to Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label, the excitement around Oxford quartet Glass Animals has been gradually building over the past two years. Following a trio of well-received EP’s that have displayed a willingness to experiment and rework their own material, the release of debut LP, ‘ZABA’, proves reason for the aforementioned excitement.
Opener ‘Flip’ begins stripped back, with the falsetto of frontman Dave Bailey floating on top of minimalist percussion and the sort of swampy bass line that underpins large parts of the album. It sets the tone for the record superbly, developing in to a layered and atmospheric climax, the type of which Glass Animals appear adept at sculpting.
‘Black Mambo’, a presumed play on the deadly snake, fittingly creates a sense of impending doom and toys with the listener somewhat. The clean strings carry with them an ever-growing air of anxiety, which is heightened by the tentative blips introduced in the chorus. The lyrics here conjure a feeling of inevitable powerlessness before the track transcends in to the first of ‘ZABA’’s many interludes that could quite easily have been lifted straight from the floor of the Amazon.
This certainly isn’t an album that can be pigeonholed either. Aspects such as the previously mentioned bass lines remain familiar for large parts and provide a strong sense of cohesion, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that there is also a dynamic versatility to Glass Animals’ work. The electronics on ‘Gooey’ sound as if they’ve been recorded through a few feet of water; ‘Walla Walla’ is formed around rousing tribal-esque percussion, whilst tracks such as ‘Intruxx’ and ‘Cocoa Hooves’ show their capability when guitars are brought to the forefront.
‘ZABA’ is a well-crafted and innovative debut that flows brilliantly throughout, combining slick RnB with experimental pop to create a range of rich, multi-layered and often exotic soundscapes. It is without doubt a precise offering, perhaps bordering on meticulous at times, yet it does not transmit in a way that renders Glass Animals’ efforts soulless to any extent. This is sure to prove one of the most assured and well-rounded debuts of the year.