Roots

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hillier

On Love and Sci­ence Zulya and the Chil­dren of the Un­der­ground In­de­pen­dent

On Love and Sci­ence is an im­pres­sively im­mer­sive work, a com­bi­na­tion of mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture and art that unites the cre­ative writ­ing skill, lin­guis­tic abil­ity and sub­lime singing of Rus­sian-Aussie Zulya Ka­malova, the mu­si­cian­ship and com­po­si­tional flair of the songstress and her su­perb band, and the il­lus­tra­tive charm of artist Dilka Bear (who shares Tatar an­tecedents with the au­thor).

Pre­sented in hand­some hard­back book form with the disc car­ry­ing the mu­sic tucked into a pocket on the in­side front cover, the pro­ject rep­re­sents three years’ en­deav­our by Zulya, whose songs (sung in no fewer than six lan­guages) il­lus­trate her Ae­sopic fairy­tale noir while op­er­at­ing in a stand-alone ca­pac­ity. The moral of a story that’s su­per­fi­cially cen­tred on a love tri­an­gle en­tan­gling a girl, a bio­chemist (rep­re­sent­ing the world in mi­cro) and an as­tronomer (in macro) and one that al­ludes to art, phi­los­o­phy and sci­ence, seems to be that hu­man­ity is global and that peo­ple have more things in com­mon than rea­sons for dis­cord. On Love and Sci­ence is a fol­low-up to Tales of Sublim­ing, Zulya’s 2010 al­bum, which drew heav­ily on fairy­tales from her Cen­tral Asian her­itage to an­i­mate trans­for­ma­tive sto­ries of fe­male char­ac­ters.

Sim­i­larly skewed melodies and rhythms un­der­score the Mel­bur­nian’s new tracks, the mu­sic ebbing and flow­ing with her nar­ra­tive. The songs de­mand and, in­deed, re­ceive the full chameleonic range of Zulya’s vo­cal ex­pres­sion, the ver­sa­til­ity and vir­tu­os­ity of her seven side play­ers and some sub­tle but evoca­tive ar­rang­ing. With many shifts in mood, On Love and Sci­ence is a roller­coaster ride that surfs waves of emo­tions, be­gin­ning with a tri­umvi­rate of songs in which Zulya in­tro­duces her char­ac­ters.

Alma’s Song, sung in Tatar, show­cases Zulya’s achingly beau­ti­ful voice in up­per reg­is­ter enun­ci­at­ing the thoughts of her pro­tag­o­nist, coun­ter­bal­anced by bass clar­inet and bowed dou­ble bass, plus hand drum, pi­ano and twangy jew’s harp.

In­ter­est­ing phras­ing and wist­ful vo­cals ac­cent the po­etic qual­ity and vin­tage Latin feel of Au­tumn Nights. Again in English, but with Weil­lian-Brechtian Euro cabaret feel, Zulya soars in Mu­seum of Lovers, a song stud­ded with lit­er­ary al­lu­sion. Her voice ca­resses ev­ery word of the down­tempo and dis­tinc­tive Some­where in Por­tuguese be­fore switch­ing to Ger­man for Happy End, an iron­i­cally named and quirky cur­tain-closer.

In a world seem­ingly hooked on short takes and su­per­fi­cial­ity, Zulya de­serves plau­dits for tack­ling a pro­ject and sub­ject of such sub­stance and pulling it off with such aplomb.

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