I found out about Zhala through Robert Alfons of TR/ST. I was interviewing him about being a generally very awesome neo-goth sex symbol, and to probe this theory, I asked him who he was listening to at the moment.
“Zhala,” he said, sans hesitation. Well, if you want to get technical, the interview was over email so I have no idea how long he hesitated or not before giving me that answer … but here’s the thing: I fucking love TR/ST, so I TR/ST’ed his taste in music and went to check her out.
And by God, was he right.
Instantly, I could see what he was talking about; Zhala sounds almost like a female version of him, but while the cross-influence between the two is undeniable, she’s a lot less gentle. Her goth-synth-pop is lush, dark, ethereal and intense, and it kind of makes you want to creep through dark alleys on the way to a succubus convention. SuccuCon or something.
As the first artist to be signed to Robyn’s Konichiwa Records, Zhala’s haunting and evocative melodies have earned her the categorical label “cosmic pop,” which sounds pretty accurate when you consider that most of the cosmos is plunged in darkness and full of aliens. Her songs are full of thought-provoking lyrics and undeniable hooks that are repeatedly delivered to you as aural punches; shocking their way into your system with a sense of electronic urgency that makes them entirely inappropriate for relaxation. She’s futuristic, direct and would go great with that bondage choker thing you’ve been wearing lately.
She’s been somewhat quiet on the new music front as of late, but I forgive her because she’s been touring. However, she did just release a new single, which timed perfectly with this column.
It’s called “Aerobic Lambada.” Don’t even try to ask me what an aerobic lambada is but it’s clearly something that breathes oxygen.
But farther back in the history of Zhala exists previous song sorcery that hooked me even before they days of Googling “Lambada???” (It’s a Brazilian partner dance obviously).
According to Spotify, the world’s favorite Zhala track is ‘Prophet,’ which is a fierce synth ode that exponentially increases in tempo during the three minutes and thirty two seconds it spends in your life. Robyn herself guest stars on the track, lending some weird Swedish chanting to the mix that makes its rave-nightmare game on point.
… and that’s how I had my first seizure!
Just kidding. I just mildly twerked.
But while ‘Prophet’ is a strong contender, my favorite song of hers is 103% ‘Slippin Around.’ There’s a weird, dissonant, shriek-y synth melody in it and these urgent-sounding tribal drums in it that are more addictive than Lunesta, which is very if you live next to a chihuahua plantation like I do.
Taken together, you can see why Zhala is something I’d listen to when I was, say, dripping hot wax all over my Malaysian fuckboy’s torso in front of a congress of black cats and masked Craigslist guests.