Zanias - Ecdysis

Fleisch Records / Metropolis Records

Last year’s Chrysalis marked as big of a musical shift as we’ve ever heard from Alison Lewis across her various projects; on Chrysalis a combination of throwback rave sounds and pop ease was added to Zanias’ already broad purview, while lyrically Lewis was more confessional and optimistic than ever before. Recorded concurrently with Chrysalis, Ecdysis zeroes in on the trippier and more abstract elements of that record, expanding them out to suit the scope and ambition of an entire LP while losing none of their emotional resonance.

Viewing the new LP as a companion to Chrysalis isn’t just a matter of recording schedule, Ecdysis being the molting of the sort of pupa referred to in that preceding LP. Between that etymology and the cover art, seeming to depict nothing less than the astral projection of a kraken, one might begin to wonder if Lewis is taking Zanias into psytrance territory. That’s certainly not the case from a genre perspective, but melodically and thematically the wistful, nostalgic, and emancipatory elements of Chrysalis are compounded here, with the downtempo liquidity of “Swim” (not a Madge cover despite Lewis citing Ray Of Light as an influence on Chrysalis) and the slow-burn, earthy harmonies which build up across “Acacia”.

The emotional effect of the record will likely be open to listeners’ interpretations, in part because of its near total use of non-lexical vocals. Even without clear words to identify its difficult to not subconsciously ascribe linguistic intent to “Mara” given how its vocal melodies utlize the dissonance and resolution which make up verse/chorus structures as it rolls through a loping darkwave progression. The sampled and stabbed approach to vocals taken on “Bloodwood” perhaps recalling stone rave classics like “Halcyon + On + On”, while on “Duneskipper”, Lewis’ vocals are tweaked far beyond the uncanny and into the terrain of birdsong as windy breaks cruise along beneath the multi-planar vocals.

The alternately bright and moody impressionism which guides Ecdysis is a rare thing in darker music these days, let alone music with serious club ambitions, which this LP still has in spades. In an era in which much darkwave is hard-bodied and beat focused, Lewis’ ability to hearken back to a gauzier and more mysterious version of the style while maintaining her rep for razor-sharp sound design and continuing to link of the moment Berlin club sounds back to 90s rave motifs is no mean feat. Recommended.

Buy it.