Zambri

House of Baasa

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Zambri burst onto the scene in 2009 with "Easier," one of that year's most ear-catching songs. Pairing electro-pop thrills the likes of which hadn't been heard since the Tom Tom Club or Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with a dark industrial-tinged pulse, Jessica and Cristi Jo Zambri and crew had crafted a sound that was as distinctive as it was appealing. Then they seemingly disappeared, only to resurface two years later with the Glossolalia EP, which polarized the sisters' twin obsessions with pop confectionery and moody experiments. That trend continues on Zambri's full-length debut, House of Baasa, with results that are equally fascinating and frustrating. While nothing is as boldly alchemical as "Easier," there are some moments that hint at that brilliance, such as the strangely fraught but nonetheless catchy "ICBYS"; "Places," which with its sparkly synths and overabundance of effects-heavy filigrees, suggests a more feminine TV on the Radio; and "Hundred Hearts," a lush, synth-driven interlude full of abstract sensuality and longing. When Zambri venture into less structured territory, the results are decidedly mixed: while "From the Starts" lets orchestral dissonance overtake the song's innocent words and melody with an almost Lynchian surreality and "You'll Never Beat Dogs" has an exotic sway to its rhythm, "All You Maybes" creates a dark, swirling netherworld that goes nowhere and "Carry" points to the band's odd fondness for repetition that doesn't always become transcendent. Even on less challenging songs such as "From an Angle," it's easy for the sounds that decorate Zambri's music to suffocate it. Indeed, Jessica and Cristi Jo have ideas and potential to burn, so it's not surprising that there's sometimes just too much going on in one of their songs. Paradoxically, their more pop moments are actually stranger and more subversive than their experiments, but even with all its flaws, House of Baasa is too intriguing to dismiss.

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