From the Darkness, the Return of Zanias

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Alison Lewis (Photo: Simon Helm)

Zanias is back with two EPs. The project of Alison Lewis, who is also known for her work with Linea Aspera, Keluar and the Fleisch recording label, has given us some mind-expanding material, and it is a rich vein to be mined for intelligent and emotional electronics.

The ore collected on Extinction consists of hard bass lines, bubbling square waves, and intense vocals. The raw materials are molten by the energy of the dancefloor and tempered by Lewis’ hardline critique of climate destruction.

The title track drowns in pads in the middle, as if absorbed by the rising waters of a warming world. Lewis’ lyrics are unambiguous:

Who will be the last to die?

Who will see the final light

across the sky?

But the sun will rise again

without us.

Who will be the last to die?

Who will think the final thought

in the universe?

But the sun will rise again,

the ocean will swell and surge,

and the sun will rise again

without us.  

The second track, “Endling,” is infused with acid and styled with distress. A song for the last of the species, it was recorded with Alex Aker and features a heavily processed sample from an Eastern Whipbird, recorded in Australia.

“Carbon” features Greta Thunberg, but you need to lace up your dancing boots to put it all in context. Lewis’ vocals flow through the forest of beats like the scent of a guide to the noses of animals.

“(There Is No) Mothership” closes the EP. It begins with the warped synthetic sounds of fried circuitry, which blend with the organic textures of Zania’s intonations. It is as other-worldly as the reaches of space or the bottom of the sea.


The material from which Harmaline is crafted is more organic. The second EP is inspired by Lewis’ search for introspection and understanding, which included experiencing ego death through an ayahuasca ritual.

The title track, “Harmaline,” leads down the world music path hewn by Dead Can Dance. The jungle is slashed by a sharp bass line, while Alison Lewis cuts her way out of a dying relationship. Made on a laptop while visiting France, the vocals speak to the depths of her internal pain. The lyrics are clear:

To have no self, to be reborn:

cast me in gold, put me in the ground.

To face this truth, to become undone:

break me with stone, put me in the ground. 

Where do you go when you’ve seen it all?

What’s left to learn when you’ve touched the void? 

We are alone, we are the last of us.

“Limerence” is about a crush Lewis had on a friend that she resisted. We can’t help the feelings, sometimes, but we don’t have to act on them or feel regret for not taking opportunities

The roots of “Excision,” a demo from 2019, are a poem posted to a friend’s Facebook wall and Lewis’ need to grow away from her suffocating relationship. A line from the poem, “galaxies bloom apart,” stuck with her and became a way to explain the need for people to follow their own directions.

 

The closing track, “Ameliorate,” is another intimate view of Lewis’ thoughts on life and love. In her words:

Now that I know

the feel of your touch:

ameliorating.

Reeling under

the surge of your ocean,

I can’t resist it.

This is going to hurt,

this is going to make you feel alive

like nothing else could.

Now that I know

the scent of your skin:

intoxicating.

Right here in the dark,

in a surge of emotion,

I can’t be sated.

So here we are…

exactly where I feared we’d be

if we were left alone for too long.

And the wave’s coming crashing down,

so hold me close, surrender to the fall,

to the foam,

to the warmth of it all.

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