‘Aliso’ is the debut album from Malena Zavala, released digitally and on 12” gatefold vinyl on April 13 via Yucatan Records.
Containing the acclaimed 2017 singles ‘Should I Try’ and ‘If It Goes’ plus new single ‘Could You Stay’, ‘Aliso’ was entirely written, played and produced by Zavala. Its ten tracks owe a debt to Beach House, Brian Eno, Tame Impala, Cuban folk musician Silvio Rodriguez and an addictive Argentinean tea called Yerba Mate that fuelled its recording. When Zavala sings, time seems to stand still. Her haunting voice is hypnotic, her sensual songs are as much about capturing emotions as they are about telling tales.
Born in northern Argentina, Malena was brought up in Britain from the age of three thanks to her family’s Italian passports and an Argentinean economy in crisis. For ‘Aliso’ she drew inspiration from the women in her family; from the strong Latino character of her Mother honoured in ‘If It Goes’, to her maverick Grandmother who in particular encouraged her free-thinking approach.
Until 2016 Malena was in the band Oh So Quiet with her brother Lucas before he made a dream move to California. As an older sibling he had been a strong musical influence and, while losing her mentor was hard at first, it was a vital step for her to step out of the shadows. Visiting Lucas in California at his house in Aliso Viejo, she felt a surge of energy and desire to prove herself, writing most of her first LP in a couple of weeks. Within six months she had recorded, produced, and mixed* (*with Gareth Jones) the album, and completed all the art, visuals and videos. Set to a backdrop of liquid psych rock and dream pop, ‘Aliso’ concerns itself largely with themes of cultural identity, self-doubt, acceptance, artistic freedom, miscommunication between cultures, and relationships. The beauty of ‘Aliso’ – and the reason it sounds like no other album – is because its songs were recorded as they were written, with no boundaries, no set destination, and no rules in place to break.
‘Could You Stay’ is a perfect distillation of this approach. Vocally and sonically it’s pitched between Kevin Parker and Victoria Legrand, but in its bluesy guitar playing and Latin style drums we hear an artist who’s already carved a niche for herself. It’s a song about falling in love with a friend and not telling them, Zavala’s voice capturing the bittersweet sensation like a film camera captures light.