A gripping, explosive statement from a true alt original...

Get in losers, we’re going subterranean. ZAND’s underworld is ready to be explored at last; they’ve spent a long time getting it ready for us, and the annals and crevices of ‘SEWERSTAR’ leave extensive room for grimy, delightful discovery. A debut mixtape of sorts, ZAND’s first extended release since 2020’s ‘Ugly Pop’ EP but comprising of tracks that go as far back as 2021’s ‘Religion’, lots of the tracks we hear are very familiar to those who’ve been raptly following ZAND since way back when. The intoxicating, ghostly melodies from the start of “Religion” are second-nature, calling to mind the feral, sexual peak that this track inspires at ZAND’s live shows; the fearsome, provoking ‘I Spit On Your Grave’s chorus is… well, to call it a comfort blanket would be far from the truth, but it’s a welcome favourite to hear and a swaggering high point on ‘SEWERSTAR’. But though lots of the songs are familiar, hearing them altogether feels like having a cataract painstakingly peeled away, and suddenly you can see the cinematic universe ZAND has crafted in perfect 20/20 vision. 

Known for ‘ugly pop’, ZAND has always leant into the disquieting crossover between pulsing, synth-loaded infectiousness and otherworldly, gritty sonic elements erring into the heavier side – as well as their subject matter, which whilst sensual and formidable, has never shied away from any topics. ZAND tackles gender, religious trauma, abusive relationships, sex, sex work, and far beyond. It’s an unflinching portrait that has always seen ZAND come out on top without excluding the uglier facets of whatever story they’re telling. It’s down to their distinctly powerful style of delivery, which on standalone songs is transfixing, but on ‘SEWERSTAR’ shines even brighter as they step onto the sewer-stage to perform this industrial-ugly-pop-opera. 

Following the understated, breezy, echoing whistle that opens ‘DESCENT’, and the muttered “hiya, can I just get a single please…” as ZAND orders their ticket down to the underworld, the track’s stomping, hypnotically dropping instrumental kicks in and the energy of ‘SEWERSTAR’ starts to reveal itself for the first time. You couldn’t really call it subtle, because it is distinctly theatrical and saturated with dark drama throughout, but there is something about it that feels effortless about the plethora of distortions and unnaturalities ZAND peppers their music with – so comfortable they seem inhabiting this world and this character. ‘Deliverance’, the first full track, is ferocious and brilliant, crescendoing into dreams of revenge but still playful, sneering and gleeful somehow; ‘DTF’ later on boasts similar power, laughing and teasing before devolving into twisted, devilish vocal effects. 

‘Battery Acid’ is the EP’s most organic offering, sonically, and it provides a little sobering context – undistorted, above a somber acoustic guitar, ZAND is vulnerable and somewhat unlike their character as they murmur a tale that steps out of the underworld for a moment, and into a sharp, real-world account of ZAND’s experiences with abuse as a queer person in a relationship with an intolerant partner. It’s a painful moment of pause to punctuate a mixtape only made possible by ZAND’s fierce self-assuredness in their queerness, their willingness to explore and make odd, unsettling art for people equally weird and excited by things way in the leftfield, and their ability to translate challenges posed by those who are threatened by their identity into soaring calls-to-arms. While we’re losing ourselves in the alleys and cavities of ‘SEWERSTAR’, it’s worth noticing that ZAND and their excellent contemporaries in the alternative queer scene are building this space for us brick by brick, vicious EP by subversive record, as an act of resistance. 


Words: Ims Taylor

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