ZAN ZONE – Start Where You Stand

Randomaxe 2022

ZAN ZONE –
Start Where You Stand

Contemplating society’s next steps and mapping out its route, New York ensemble draw new lines in the sand.

While most artists found the pandemic-related downtime conducive to creative reflection, thus bunch of Brooklynites felt existential angst and anger fill their veins: indeed, the world has moved on since 2018’s "It's Only Natural" laced joie de vivre with sweet sadness, and the band had to accept the past and assess the present in order to grasp the future. What resulted is a sharp, though extremely soulful, sociopolitical album that will grab the listener by the lapels and then either shout difficult truths in the fan’s face or kiss those who came in for a treat of a song – old and new, red-hot and blue. Some of the pieces on display waited for more than two decades to become relevant and be aired, but it was worth it.

So when Philip Dessinger’s statement of “All of my life I’ve been tryin’ to get away / From the things in which I don’t believe” kicks off the flamenco-esque “I Won’t Live A Lie” – one of the numbers dating back to the ’90s – it’s clear: that retreat into obscure references is not an option for this group, and even the tempo-shifting instrumentals “Extinction: Rebellion” and “Extinction: Romp” – the former a prog-rock flight, the latter a rocking jaunt – enhance the sense of urgency rather than soothe or smooth the edges. That’s why Zan Burnham’s intimate tone and mercurial guitar in the intense opener “Bad Dreams” dissolve gloom in a hypnotic, nervously scintillating tune, and once Angela Watson Modeste’s vulnerable vocals are woven into such a strange lullaby fears seem to set in, too, yet the title track is where riffs and pleas pose simple solemnity to drive the cut’s arresting, anthem-like refrain away from rage and closer to hope. And that’s why the warm funk of “Watchin’ The World Go By” has fierceness written all over its middle part, a bass-spanked, concrete-jungle chant, as opposed to the exquisitely countrified “Baby Cried” – voiced solely by Ms. Modeste – and “THAT” with their electric mellifluous spirituality and acoustic, rousing jive.

But then, the start-stop, robust blues behind “One Step Ahead Of The Red” changes the record’s dynamics again and force-feeds the ensemble’s followers with pride before “Survival” offers an effervescent shuffle as a way out of our current mess, and “Hot & Cold” goes for resonant, romantic, self-deprecating humor – as does the reggae-shaped “Holdin’ You Tight” to serve up the platter’s finale. This is the embrace we’re all in need, and “Start Where You Stand” provides the encouragement that many of us require, making it the perfect album for here and now – and, actually, for ever.

*****

July 24, 2022

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