Unveiling Chrysalis, her third monumental solo effort, Zanias marks some of the finest work of her musical career, further solidifying her reputation as a dynamic channel for raw emotional catharsis and intellectual exploration. This latest album, released via her label, Fleisch Records, is a hopeful and optimistic ethereal pop opus, akin to waking from a dream after a storm. It represents a significant evolution in her production techniques, offering the most genuine avatar of Alison Lewis’ musical philosophy to date.
Zanias masterfully interlaces avant-garde, otherworldly sonics with elements of darkwave, dazzling dance rhythms, surreal synth textures, indie pop, and folk harmonies. This intricate blend carves her unique signature within the astral pop landscape, evoking the ethereal otherness reminiscent of the 4AD Cocteau Twins sound.
In a mirror to Liz Fraser’s ethereal grace, Zanias showcases a distinctive linguistic artistry, drawing words from encyclopedias of flora and fauna, mythology, anatomy, and foreign languages. This unique approach, previously seen in her projects Keluar and Linea Aspera, now breathes life into her latest work, Chrysalis.
The result is an honest and purifying musical journey that is intellectually stimulating and spiritually transformative, marking a new milestone in Zanias’ evolving musical narrative.
Zanias has dedicated herself to achieving transcendence through her art. Her work delves deeply into the intricate world of human emotions, examining the complex role that these conscious experiences have played throughout our collective evolutionary history. Through her music, she explores her psychological curiosities and celebrates the amazing interconnectedness that music provides.
In the album’s opener, “Simulation,” Zanias confronts the end of naivety and detrimental influences with a perspective imbued with the sour taste of betrayal, the weight of having seen too much, and an apprehension of a return to darker times. The lyrics masterfully depict that pivotal moment when the void becomes all too visible. Excessive indulgence in sensory pleasures can indeed turn toxic over time. While the allure of the nightlife buzzes with seductive energy and momentary joy, it often proves to be ephemeral and unsustainable: “this city has enabled us all and it’s breaking my soul.” The superficial allure of casual chats, the fog of substance use, the transient connections, and the relentless saga of nocturnal melodrama can gradually lose their appeal. The simulation we craft within this blurred, protective sphere is synthetic, and a single shift can cause it all to collapse into nothingness.
Beneath the rhythmic trance of “Metrics” and the airy grace of the vocals, there lies a poignant narrative of self-questioning and the anguish of imposter syndrome. This manifests as a series of probing existential queries, adding a layer of depth that belies the hypnotic surface. “Am I winning enough to deserve the space I take up? Am I giving enough to deserve to even wake up?” The death of a loved one spurred the background behind the song’s creation, the fallout of having to cancel a tour with her band Linea Aspera, and the sudden crisis of faith brought on by the almighty algorithm of the music business and the wider world of late-stage capitalism. Is connecting with an audience as an audience enough? Is being human enough in an inhumane world driven by likes, views and streams? Is our self-worth enough in this toxic culture?
“Burial” opens with a haunting, ghostly vocal that, like a sombre folk song, ushers us through a painful journey of the emotional exhaustion of grief. The song describes a profound sense of inner disintegration, resonating with feelings of disconnection and apathy. The plea for distance suggests a desperate need for solitude and escape from a life that once seemed perfect but now suffocates in its memory.
In a complete 180 shift, the following techno instrumental, “Lovelife,” jumps out of lyrical expression for the most part and moves into pure ethereal dance-pop ecstasy, angelic voices playfully intertwining above a euphoric beat, akin to an interlude between Lisa Gerrard and Grimes. Continuing in the same vein, “Closing” unveils an array of truly bewitching vocal manoeuvres, that rhythmically weave around sighs and ensnaring drumbeat.
“Teatree” also explodes with celestial glory in a touching metaphor. “The Departure” is an extraordinarily emotional encomium, a funeral march dotted with hope for the journeying spirit, and words of comfort for those left behind. The closing title track carries forth a fluttering acoustic guitar into the intro, allowing us all to unfold our wings as we emerge from within our proverbial cocoons.
Listen to Chrysalis below:
Alison Lewis, previously associated with revered outfits such as Linea Aspera and Keluar, has etched her own path as a solo artist in the guise of Zanias. This unique solo project effortlessly merges the spectral vibrations of techno and EBM with an immersive emotive resonance. Her discourse has previously been enriched by esteemed collaborations with the likes of Black Rain, Ancient Methods, Dax J, and I Hate Models. Chrysalis was completely self-produced and showcases the bass talents of her ally in creativity, Laura Bailey (Neu-Romancer), who now complements her on-stage presence.
Looking ahead, Zanias has a number of prestigious appearances on the horizon. In September 2023, she will perform at Khidi Club in Tbilisi, followed by a performance at the Waves Festival in Sao Paolo in July. In August, she is scheduled to perform at the Fekete Zaj Festival in Hungary, followed by Bar 56 in Bishkek and Anklav in Almaty in September 2023.
Chrysalis is out now.
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