Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter R Zak is to release her new album, Dialectics on 7th May, an extraordinary and hypnotic collection of tracks which bounce from electro-indie to classical to jazz to avant-garde sound collages without scarcely taking a breath.
Welcome to R Zak’s world, one which has seen her study as a classical viola-player, only to find her using her instrument in everything from reggae collectives to hardcore punk bands, touring with indie band The Apple Miner Colony and opening for the likes of Buckethead and Beirut.
Dialectics sees R Zak tearing sounds apart at the seams and reassembling them until they are both familiar and unsettlingly beautiful, strange and twisted sound sculptures, all married to R Zak’s zephyr-like vocals.
Having grown up in San Antonio, Texas, R Zak is now settled in Portland, Oregon, long a stronghold for artistic talent of all kinds. Living in a household where on any given day she could be exposed to classical, mariachi or nu-country music, she began playing the piano at the age of five before moving onto the viola aged nine and was encouraged by her teachers to experiment with all forms of music, not to feel rooted in just one.
Completing a Bachelor’s then two Master’s degrees as a single mother, she is now a teacher herself and passes on this ethic to her own pupils:
“There’s no training or even protocol when it comes to real music making. There’s only immersion. It just becomes a physical need like the need for truth. The music simply has to come to life through you; you are just a vessel for it. Nothing else can really touch you at that point. The music gives you such strength and independence while at the same time bonding you emotionally with the entire world. It’s so mysterious!”R Zak
Dialectics is R Zak’s most extraordinary release so far – breathtakingly immersive and taking the listener on adventures through secret passageways within tracks, so that whilst you’re never certain of your eventual destination, the journey is constantly fascinating:
The title is “Dialectics” which has many meanings, depending on the context. The way I am using it, it is a reciprocal exchange between opposites, mutual sustenance, vital interaction. Every track on the album represents some kind of interaction between my own creative impulse and the art works of others. For melodic inspiration I have looked to the Cantigas de Santa Maria, an ancient Spanish hymn book, as transcribed by Chris Elmes.
These melodies breathe with fresh life in eleven of the songs. For lyrics, I have worshipped the poetry of Lorca, Yeats, Joyce, Zitkala-Sa, Wilde, as well as living poets Mary O’Donnell and Sydney Acosta. The cover art is a portrait by Lizeth Niño, a visual artist based in Portland, OR and Piedras Negras, Mexico.
Surrounding myself with great art is important to my spirit, and I have tried to do justice to the brilliant works that have inspired me. In working on this album, I gradually realised that I am not satisfied with my music until it is danceable, so I really hope the music moves you physically and elevates your mind. I hope it’s as refreshing as a fresh landscape.
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