The Upshot: A compelling all-over-the-map collision of jazz, blues, show tunes, garage rock, and Latino flavors—plus a gorgeous vinyl collectible.
BY FRED MILLS
A little over a year ago, BLURT spotlighted New Jersey’s J Hacha de Zola’s second album, Picaro Obscuro, premiering the remarkable “In Curtains” song, his Tom Waits-meets-Nick Cave sound as unique as any we’d heard in 2016. Now comes the new Antipatico, which apparently translates from Spanish as “unfriendly.” That may be underselling the record—it is, at points, hypnotic, cinematic, lush, and dissonant—but there’s no question that it is also a challenging, at times daunting, listen, one which grabs the listener by the shoulders and gives you a good shaking: Pay attention.
From the salsa/rumbafied “Amaranthine,” which finds de Zola’s lascivious vocals draped in echo amid a noirish vibe and debauched Ralph Carney (Tin Huey, Waits band) and Dana Colley (Morphine) sax lines, to the riotous “Lightning Rod Salesman,” whose dense, jungle-throb rhythms, squawking/barking instrumentation (it includes a psychedelic jaw harp courtesy of another Waits sideman, David Coulter), and stream of consciousness vocal brings to mind vintage Captain Beefheart, Antipatico is an uncompromising listen that insists you meet it on its own terms. Cue the record up and be prepared to be immersed in outre blues, Latino rock, lounge jazz, twisted show tunes, gypsy polka, garage psych, and just plain outsider sounds; de Zola conjures up a mini-universe for each composition, all the while warbling in his signature upper register that’s part-croon, part-sneer, and part-swagger.
The record closes with the dirgelike-yet-melodic, anthemic-in-design ballad “A Fanciful Invention,” which is also the track (specifically, an alternate take of the track) that graces a limited edition 7” lathe-cut single de Zola just released, and for record collectors, it’s a must-own artifact, pressed on clear vinyl and hand-painted on the back side to give it a decidedly surreal effect when spinning on the turntable. Clearly de Zola considers his music to be “art,” and it must be said, both CD and single are striking testaments to the gentleman’s unbridled artistry. “Unfriendly,” my ass—one listen to his music and you’re gonna want to know him personally. (Incidentally, you can hear the record and more at his official website, and you might also want to check out his outrageous cover of Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” over at the Cover Me project’s Bandcamp page.)
DOWNLOAD: “No Situation,” “Lightning Rod Salesman,” “On A Sleepless Night”