Formed in 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the psychedelically leaning noise rock outfit Zoo Lake has just released their debut record Zonk on label Permanent Records. The band consisting of vocalist and guitarist Givan Lötz, guitarist and mbira player Adriaan Hugo, bassist Brett Rubin and drummer/synth player Joe Paine. The band made their festival debut last year at Endless Daze playing alongside other like-minded psych-addled acts such as A Place to Bury Strangers, Nonn and Dead Meadow.
On Zonk they delve into a funky and psychedelic miasma with a bit of a harder edge to it that reminded me of the Cures’ Seventeen Seconds and Pornography. It’s definitely not an album of light hearted wanderlust pyschedelia that makes you want to float on clouds and have wonderful ideas about everything. Instead it’s just the opposite really, a sort of borderline netherworld of dark and haunting tracks that would be best accompanied by lying on the floor alone in a dark room and lolling your head about on the floor. There is a darkness to these songs and the thing about it is it’s not feigned, rather it’s quite sustaining. There is heart and soul behind Lötz’s cries sounding like some Neolithic wounded animal as all around him the guitars sound like shattering glass and the concentrated screeching of a pack of starving vultures circling their first meal in weeks.
The opening track “Anaconda” begins to set the tone with shrieking siren sounds of guitar and synth while the bass and drums play a very subtle Joy Division like role of darkness. There is however a bit of rock n’ roll catchiness to it that gets the point across for what’s to come.
Outside of this larval stage come songs of great eccentricity like “Warble” which learns to take the more glam side of the darkness and exploit it well enough with a chunky riff and some sort of satanic sounding ether. “Black Gated Mega Dungeon” is a slow and steady grimy and sludgy mix of noise rock and doomsday sounding revelations via Lötz’s hollow and fanned out vocals.
Later on, the band cleans up its dark image a little bit to offer some more shimmering and class conscious offerings of psychedelic music that land in the more middle class fantasies of people who want to listen to psychedelic music but also want to have a 401k and brunch on the weekends, much of what I expect most Beach House fans to be. The songs referenced here are “Jawbone” and “What Party?”
The songs seem to me like a band who’s still trying to hammer out just where they want to go. That being said, as a whole the record’s songs are all very well wrought and each of them seems to hit the mark and tick the boxes of what proto-psychedelic rock should be.
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