If, like us, you worship at the church of Robyn (we are not worthy), there may be a sense that you’ve been somewhat coerced into liking Zhala. Far be it for anyone to doubt Ms Carlsson’s protegée, a former Lykke Li backing singer and the first signing to Konichiwa, even if Prophet was a bit of a racket. Luckily, we bring good tidings to all lovers of Scandi-pop: Zhala’s self-titled collection of cosmic electronica is certainly a justification of a superstar’s faith.
Take the most recent release Holy Bubbles, for example. It’s a dextrous piece of synth-pop, contorting Zhala’s featherlight (and typically Swedish) vocals around a melody that seems inspired by her Middle Eastern background and – woman after our own heart – self-confessed love for Bollywood movies. It’s a scintillating double-header that comes immediately after the album’s other highlight Aerobic Lambada, a beguiling club-track mixture of frantic and airy.
On those two tracks alone, Zhala’s home at Konichiwa makes perfect sense: she clearly isn’t one for a shallow dip in the genre. Arrangements are complex (as on Prince In The Jungle) and even her interpretation of a ballad, Right Way’s Wrong, takes on shades of the subterranean. It doesn’t always work – hell, at times it’s positively overwhelming, like on Lunch – but the unpredictable directions taken by each song are never less than fascinating.
These aren’t songs that will get easy radio play, that’s for sure, but they certainly herald the start of a career that seems way more bold and interesting than any of her peers – you only need to hear a snippet of a song called Me and My Borderline Friend In Trance to know that. Zhala’s debut is complicated, befuddling, but forever transfixing; we’re pretty sure Robyn wouldn’t have it any other way and, quite honestly, neither would we.
Zhala by Zhala can be ordered here.