Tuesday, November 28, 2017

EZLA - Outcasts (2017)

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Written by Jay Snyder, posted by blog admin

EZLA jumpstarted her music career by moving to Nashville, TN; the rich breeding ground that has given us countless legendary country artists to admire.  On her debut EP, Outcasts, EZLA shows no signs of the signature Nashville twang or the brooding acoustic guitars that launched many superstars over the years.  The music is a dark, clubby trip with explicit lyrics, smoky vocals and inventive beats that establish a creeping, crawling trip full of oblique yet punchy grooves. 
The title track is a perfect example of EZLA’s freaky, oddball aural tendencies; a thumping, bass-centered pulse moves at a chunky mid-tempo as layers of warped keyboards wash and wax the darkness until an infectiously cathartic chorus drives the hook home for good.  Not only does the production provide an excellent integration of the singer/songwriter’s intricate, densely layered instrumentation but it fully features her slightly raspy and surprisingly limber vocal theatrics in all of their hypnotizing glory.  EZLA is far from a pop princess, but she’s got a knack for inserting the genre’s strongest melodies into more progressive fare that challenges the listener to hear outside of the box and any preconceived notions.  

Lively, rhythmic vocal flows and dynamic wordplay charges “Skeletons” vulgar, no holds barred lyrical approach with bleak frankness. The chorus is particularly noteworthy for its repeated mantra of “sipping on souls like coke and rum”, while the synths go from subwoofer rumble to spiraling triumph.  It’s a brave stylistic division that sports numerous, impressive valley to peak transitions.  “Satellites” tells a moody story of love and drugs, effectively launching straight into pushing, pulling vocal patterns backed by electronica-flavored ambience and an economical beat.  Each subsequent verse piles on subtle synth textures; eventually giving way to a jazzy trip-hop chorus that instantly gets stuck in your head.
“Hangman” culls some influence from rap, dub and trip-hop as EZLA goes straight into a wordy, yet well-delivered, rhyming couplet that almost has too many syllables to work properly but, somehow, she never loses the flow.  The energetic bass tremors insistently drive the tune forward while atmospheric splashes of looping, street smart keyboards preclude somber frequency changes that swirl and oscillate until radiating waves after wave of shifty, paranoid darkwave pop euphoria.  Closer “Psycho Killers” still dwells in the caverns of minimalism but engages the listener with a thudding, techno-leaned bump n’ grind and soon thereafter introduces terrifying pitch-shifted vocals.  It’s easily the EP’s weirdest, strangest standout track.  The boiling, bubbling vat of subdued evil could have easily landed EZLA on a bill with Twitch-era Ministry or Ruby’s sleazy noise/trip-hop heard on her 1995 album oddity, Salt Peter.  

Despite EZLA’s fondness for pop sensibility, there’s a demented side to Outcasts that you just don’t get from similar artists.  This stuff feels ambitious, artistic and rebellious even during its sweetest arrangements.  EZLA is a fiendish, freaky and fun all around talent.   

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