MusicReview

Zaska — A Better Way review: Notes of pure optimism in a future-soul space

Max Zaska radiantly reshapes familiar themes while showcasing talent from Ireland’s Direct Provision system

A Better Way
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Artist: Zaska
Label: Self-released

The second release by Max Zaska after 2019′s debut It Takes a Village has notes of pure optimism coursing throughout. The Zaska project is inherently collaborative, with this record showcasing some incredible talent (including at times, backing vocals from some asylum seekers in Ireland’s Direct Provision system).

Existing in a kind of future-soul space, leaning in to a Michael Kiwanuka corner here, a Sault element there, it radiantly reshapes some familiar themes and sounds. Inspired in part by Greta Thunberg’s personal commitment to environmentalism and individual responsibility, Zaska takes us through his own vision of what that might look like, sometimes taking to lead vocals — on the brilliant The Basics (bringing to mind the work of Boca 45) and What Are We Doing? which resembles an up-tempo Cinematic Orchestra-meets-Rotary Connection, as well as the loping hip-hop sensibility of Out My Hands.

Highlights include the masterful Obsolete, featuring Precious Okpaje, which folds in the theme of corporate greed amid beautiful trumpet, saxophone and trombone, and the melancholy tones of J Smith on the elegant Gone in a Minute, which complement the dusky voice of Faye O’Rourke on the rich Lesson Learned. Dylan Lynch’s intuitive drumming infuses the record with a kind of soft immediacy throughout, and there is something fresh-sounding about the sloping R’n’B of Nothing But You featuring Tolü Makay and the title song, which features Carly Coonagh, harnessing a real sense of joy.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture