Zeal (fervour for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavour; enthusiastic diligence; ardour. – dictionary.com) is the pet project of one Patrick J Hodgen. Under this moniker, Hodgen’s has birthed a sound that dips its toes in country, pop, indie and everything in-between. A stripped back, lo-fi take on modern music, where no genre is safe, this otherworldly release is fearless in its ventures, while demanding everything its listeners can muster. Quite unlike anything I have heard this year from a local artist, the newest endeavour from Zeal is driven by bold expansive strokes that retain a sense of claustrophobia usually reserved for the most introspective of albums.
A paradoxical invention, Zeal manages to combine elements of genres that should not work together and yet manages to make a dark and adventurous EP that sounds like everything from David Bowie and Neil Young. I know what you’re thinking, “temper your hyperbole Ben ffs” but the truth of the matter is Zeal have created a truly unique sound that proves experimentalism in music can be done right.
As I burn through my eighth listen, I come to the conclusion that indeed, Lo-Fi was the only way in which this could work. The perfect complimentary piece to the EPs restrained snap and omnipresent potential, like a storm on the edge of lightning, the stripped back aesthetic is the perfect antithesis for the psychedelic wail of the guitar or the mesmerising allure of Hodgen’s shadowy vocals. Most impressive, however, is the stark difference between opener ‘Happy Heart, Weary Spine’ (what I imagine space sounds like) and closer ‘Queen Of The Rodeo’ (R.E.M mixed with The Kinks mixed with Bojack Horseman). Different enough to sound like two separate bands, but retaining all the delicious entities that make this EP so deeply satisfying.
The type of music that you can envision soundtracking a Tarantino movie, Hodgen managed to walk the knife edge between delicate and sharp while creating an environment which had a little bit of everything. Shying away from excess, which more often than not is the Sun to music Icarus, Zeal have hit the nail exactly on the head, giving just enough away while leaving plenty to enjoy for those adventurous enough. Hewn from moon rocks and sailing on a river of starlight, Zeal has a winner on his hands.