It has been two and a half years now since Zola Blood appeared on the scene with their Meridian EP, and the London four-piece’s debut certainly has an unhurried, considered feel to it. Infinite Games, then, has had a pretty long gestation and appears in the wake of a string of classy singles over the previous few months, all four of which appear here.
The band’s sound is rooted in a melancholic electronica, but with the songs very much in focus. The title track begins the record in a considered, downbeat fashion, setting the scene with its minimal synths and yearning vocals that recall Puressence at their most potent.
‘Heartbeat’ was a single last Summer and is a thing of delicate beauty, almost too fragile to make any headway for the band, but a totally absorbing track that the band are wise to include on the record. There is such a mysterious fine line between having an enormous hit or a relative obscurity in this field: comparable contemporaries would include The xx who have sold a lot of records without any ‘obvious’ hit singles and of course, Radiohead, who sell by the bucketload whether treading the commercial path or not.
‘The Only Thing’ ups the pace and borders on the anthemic – the sort of thing that underrated Aussies The Temper Trap might come up with. Throughout the album, both guitars and keyboards are used sparingly and each note sounds like it has been planned carefully, with a wonderfully sympathetic production courtesy of Oli Bayston (Boxed In) and Duncan Toothill (Little Cub).
Infinite Games takes its title from the James P. Carse book of the same name and the themes of that work inform many of the bittersweet lyrics of the record. Frontman Matt West explains “It’s about living a freer life, and not necessarily buying into the idea that you should do stuff just because you’re supposed to, like getting a career or being a model citizen or whatever. A lot of the lyrics and feelings we’ve tried to create on the album are about escaping from those ideas”. A case in point is the elegiac closer ‘Get Light’ which opines “Say your so longs/ Let it dissolve and pass the time/ Just keep it light”. It is a really affecting finale to the album, with a gorgeously simple guitar line coming in just before the end. The record ends as it starts, in a coolly understated way.
Listening to Infinite Games reveals that the band have spent their time well in putting together this album, their wistfully contemplative songs make for a satisfying listen, and album to return to again and again.
Infinite Games is released by Pond Life on 26th May 2016.