“Having escaped the confines of Fat Kat City, we make our way through a draconian existence, into a state of darkness, chaos and confusion.” Listening to artist J Hacha De Zola describe the pair of albums he created in 2016, you may think he’s rehashing the plot of a twisted, dystopian narrative straight from the mind of John Carpenter. Delving deeper, you still may not be convinced otherwise. The journey began in Hacha De Zola’s hometown of Rahway, New Jersey, where he wrote and recorded Escape From Fat Kat City– almost literally in the shadow of a Maximum Security Prison. From there he headed west, where he took up residency in an old boiler room in Portland, Oregon to record Picaro Obscuro, an album that continues the dark, experimental mindset of Fat Kat City, but explores these themes of madness and melancholy from a more personal narration. For the second album, he recruited Ralph Carney, a tenor and baritone sax player who has played with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and the B-52s, among others (if the last name rings a bell, it’s because he’s Black Keys member, Patrick Carney’s, uncle) and David Coulter, a multi-instrumentalist who has recorded, performed and toured with Jarvis Cocker, Laurie Anderson, Kronos Quartet, Yoko Ono and Beck.
Today, Elmore is premiering “A Curious Thing,” from Picaro Obscuro. “This is not a very nice song, so naturally I felt it should open up the album,” he tells Elmore. “I guess it’s a bit angry… It seems that anger is the most accessible of emotions, and this one is an exploration of those lower frequencies.” The loose, wild energy of the track springs from Hacha De Zola’s process of “reductive synthesis,” where he lets the creative process and recording process happen spontaneously and simultaneously. David Coulter adds in a structural element with his driving percussion- a rhythm derived from the music of the Garifuna people, who are a people with a very unique language that includes Arawak, African and Spanish elements. “The concept of rhythm is nothing to be scoffed at,” Hacha De Zola adds, “It is a divination, it is magic, centuries old at this point.” Hacha De Zola conjures his own strange magic with a guttural yowl, one that is both entrancing and just a touch spooky.
Connect with Hacha De Zola on his website, listen to “A Curious Thing” below and look out for Picaro Obscuro, out August 12th.