Trying to figure out the direction in which electronic music is headed is basically a fool’s errand at this point. There’s just too wide of a range now. And while the variety is wonderful, it can be a little jarring to some seeing such a broad spectrum of brow altitude. It’s like reading a great article on Buzzfeed about the harsh conditions in American prisons, and then being told why Jennifer Lawrence should be your spirit animal in .gif form immediately after.
Nobody can deny how huge those Red Bull guzzling synth monoliths like Steve Aoki and Skrillex have gotten, but plenty of “Purists” hate them and they’re by no means the first wave of polarizing electronic artists. The genre “Intelligent Dance Music” wouldn’t have a nearly 25 year long legacy of Orbital and Aphex Twin junkies swapping vinyls if they were. But at this point, everyone’s using some device learned from a branch of the mighty oak that is the electronic music family tree. So it’s kind of silly picking sides when each camp is connected in some way. This applies strictly to electronic music, not humanity. Continue having wars and stuff.
This is what makes a band like Zula so fun. Listening to them is like a blurred canvas of so many different sonic entities. On their debut LP, This Hopeful, they offer up a wide range of grooves to choose from. A song like “And More Business” shows them flexing their dance muscles the most, while keeping it understated. Everything builds from a simple piano riff that’s eventually paired with a very chunky bassline and sporadic synths. Frontmen (and cousins) Nate and Henry Terepka’s echoed vocals add to the trance atmosphere of the song perfectly.
Zula is adept at establishing a foundational pillar in each song. Whether it’s “And More Business’s” piano riff or the drum groove from “Sullen Crackle,” having a constant adds to the effect made by each unconventional loop, as well as their off-kilter guitar work floating intermittently through each song. They’ve shown that they can use those elements as a way to get themselves into a tight rhythm or build up to a huge payoff at the end.
The Terepka’s have that magic touch that lend to the sounds coming together so nicely. They can tap into some of those Thom Yorke-ish sassy howls when they wants to, but can also shift to a more delicate tone perfect for melodies that really stick. Henry is one of those vocalists who can have a mini-hook in the middle of a song by simply repeating a key phrase over and over without it sounding droney in any way. This is done a few times in “Sullen Crackle.” His ear for the atypically catchy is perhaps Zula’s best attribute.
Zula’s knack for unforced catchiness, paired with the variation in their sound should offer something fresh for any electronic fans. These fellas probably won’t be headlining any festivals that hose you down with neon paint, but it’s doubtful they’ll be staying in the niche fringes of the underground either. They’re sort of a tweener band in that sense, and have the all the skills needed to expand their sound further.