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.