Donzii have been slowly fermenting in the Miami heat for at least four years, but the potency of their first LP, Fishbowl, should lure in a wider audience likely to be intoxicated by the trio’s smooth blending of no wave, post-punk, goth, and funk. Despite the range of sounds and influences on display, Fishbowl feels like a united listen which never is in the shadow of its influences, thanks in large part to vocalist Jenna Balfe’s presence (Balfe’s background in dance and performance might not be literally audible, but her poise and focus certainly are) and a solid set of tunes which deliver both melodically and rhythmically.
Brightly coloured and constantly refracting all manner of shades, Fishbowl‘s mix of funky bass, synth gurgles, and alternately commanding and dreamy vocals will likely act as something of a Rorschach test for the listener. Given my tastes, I found myself catching hints of Gloria Mundi and Specimen in the proto-goth blending of funk and glam on “Penetrate”, but others might hear more of the band’s stated interest in original NYC no wave. Whatever your point of entry into Fishbowl, its rapid and disorienting swirl of grooves, spiked guitar, and skittery programming will immediately detour you into a labyrinth of cross-references: “Crash Landing” draws an intriguing connection between the florid, decadent excess of mid-period Banshees and the much more leering visage of west coast mutant punk, while “Baby Wilder” zeroes in on a genome shared by beat combo-era Wire and current machine-rock.
But amidst all of these different sounds, there’s a unity to Donzii’s approach. Partially that’s a result of how on point the bass is, but it’s predominantly Balfe’s presence and versatility as a vocalist which holds things together. Whether she’s handling Sugarcubes-type new wave (“Fun”), EBM and NYC electro (“Pattern 26”), and yes, even the current wave of club-focused US darkwave (“Grave”), she finds a tone and register that works for the tune but keeps the hothouse weirdness of Donzii in focus.
Fishbowl is a record which lies somewhat far afield from the territory we usual cover here at I Die: You Die, but its refreshing new take on some ur-goth sounds were more than enough to grab our attention and lead us into everglade tropicalia (Balfe’s non-musical work is keenly invested in plants). From that point onward it was easy to be drawn further into the funk and revelry of Donzii’s world, a world which evokes lizard-skin wallpaper, funhouse mirrors, and tiki cocktails made with trans-dimensional fruit. Recommended.