There’s nothing like the feeling of two back-to-back great albums released right near each other. Last week, I wrote about the debut Nothing in Writing album, and this week I want to cover the new release from Zoungla. If you follow this site or my social media pages, you’ve probably heard the name. The new album is called Source, and it released on August 9th.
Zoungla is a project from multi-instrumentalist Costa Damoulianos. You may know him from the progressive metal band Transcend. Anyways, he is Canadian and really likes to fish. For some reason, I feel like that plays into the sound of this project. Costa handles guitars, vocals, bass, keys, and programming; and Devon Butters guests on bass on one track. So, this is basically all Costa.
How to describe this music? Zoungla, even in its name, is a quirky mishmash of various genres, never staying in one type of music very long. The albums themselves are quite diverse, so it is difficult to label it as anything whatsoever. Much of the music leans towards progressive electronic at times, but you will also hear dub, metal, rock, and cinematic score elements.
It’s never really about the type of music, however. It’s more about the feelings evoked and the colors painted in our minds. Costa is a master of creating textures and colors that seem to ooze and infect everything about the music. I’ve often said that his Zoungla project contains all sorts of slippery, slimy, squirty, and squelchy elements, and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. Costa isn’t afraid to have fun with all sorts of sounds.
Source is Zoungla’s fifth album. I have personally reviewed the latest three, starting with 2018’s Family. Following right on the heels of that wonderful record was There Will Be Dub in the same year, and that album happens to be a personal favorite of mine. It has been radio silence from Zoungla since then, aside from a single and live release in 2019. Transcend did release a record in 2020, so maybe that is the cause of the silence, but I was afraid Zoungla was done.
This album is both similar and different from past releases. There isn’t as much of the squelchy sound of There Will be Dub, but there is also less straightforward composition compared to Family. This album leans heavily towards cinematic ideas, and, surprisingly, also towards rock/metal. There are certainly electronic elements throughout, but there are also tracks that are ambient, abstract rock songs, essentially. You’ll hear a ton of bass, especially, and gorgeous keys, too. For some reason, this makes the album feel more grounded than past releases.
I love the one-two punch of the openers, “Spores” and “Source”. The former has the quirk and space that I love so much about this project, but it transitions into the title track, which has a heavy electronic beat. They feel like they belong together, even though they sound so different. I would maybe even include “Sentient” with them, too. “Sentient” is a 10-minute track that focuses mostly on rock and metal sounds. It’s interesting, too, because it likes to linger in various spaces and atmospheres, but there are clear grooves and riffs that can be heard. It might seem to plod along at times, but that is only to serve the coming rhythms. It’s a great track with a fantastic second half.
I feel like the remaining four tracks can be split into two sets, as well. “Take Us Through” and “Learning to Love” are the first set. I like how whimsical and bright these songs are. “Learning to Love”, especially, feels like a keyboard riff off “Take Us Through”, and it is almost pure cinema. I love the last couple minutes of its beautiful soundscape.
The final set is “Dissolve” and “Sunlight Through the Trees”. “Dissolve” might be my favorite on the album. I love the cautious rhythm that emerges and the bright lights that hover around everything. I even like the voiceover as it discusses AI and how it compares to human minds in creating art. For some reason, the sheer beauty of this track brings tears to my eyes. Finally, “Sunlight Through the Trees” has perhaps the most addictive melody on the record. I love how fanciful and pure it seems, and I especially love how it launches into something truly special in the second half. Therein you will find one of the best synth solos I’ve heard this year, as well as some effervescent vocals from Costa. It’s a truly special ending.
Zoungla is truly a hidden gem. I love all of Costa’s work, and Source itself feels like an emotional and thoughtful tribute to everything that he is and has created. It feels special and lighter than air, somehow. I can’t stop listening to it, and I’m hoping to grab vinyl when it (and CD) releases later this year.
Find Zoungla online: