In previous recordings, the enormous, soul stirring chops of Cosima Jaala–the principal songwriter and frontwoman of Melbourne’s guitar outfit Jaala–seemed to be at war with the serpentine melodies and evanescent rhythms surrounding her. On tracks like the demo of “Double Dutch” (recorded when the band was an all-girl trio, before the addition of guitarist Nic Lam), Cosi is almost struggling to be heard above the roiling calamity, her vocals coarse, gloriously unpolished, adorned with a rough blanket of reverb. The result is a chaotic seesawing of opposing energies, sometimes directing attention to the startling tenor of her voice, other times relinquishing wholly to the progression of their fiery instrumentals.
On the title track for the band’s forthcoming debut album, which was produced and recorded by Hiatus Kaiyote bassist Paul Bender, JAALA refocuses its efforts. Some of the initial grittiness that defined their sound has disappeared, replaced on “Hard Hold” by a smooth, rounded-out integrity. Cosi’s sinewy verses hover above the mix with a stark, nearly crystalline sense of brilliance. Here, she exhibits absolute control over the rest of the band. It could be the song’s subject matter, which grapples with a love that’s stubborn and debilitating but nonetheless provocative, but Cosi has never sounded so emotionally charged and sincere, so perfectly restrained. “I’ll have a little slice of bread to help dilute the drunkenness,” her voice swells against harmonized guitar strokes. It’s a gorgeous yet inescapably devastating piece of music. Stream it below.
JAALA‘s debut album Hard Hold is set to release in October via Wondercore Island. The four-piece band will support Hiatus Kaiyote during their tour of Australia next month.