House of Baasa is the full-length debut from Jessica and Cristi Jo Zambri, two Brooklyn-based sisters who have been making bedroom pop since before that was even a thing. The duo reportedly shared a room growing up, and House of Baasa is an attempt to capture and tap into both the music they made together and the worlds crafted through playtime. Judging from what lies within House of Baasa, Halloween must have been a memorable holiday in the Zambri household.
Opener All You Maybes begins with an anguished synth throb that swirls down toward the underworld. Let’s go! Zambri commands, but to where? The demented arpeggio that follows indicates that the destination is a Killing Joke-esque ride through a house of horrors. All You Maybes exemplifies how powerful an opening track can be, and in the case of Zambri’s debut, it pulls the listener into a new world with an inescapable grip.
While House of Baasa is an admittedly dark, twisted fantasy, the Zambri sisters also know their way around a pop song. Places takes a catchy melody and wraps it in a dusty sheet and rusty chains. Album highlight ICBYS is a musical battle royale. It’s ’80s synthpop versus industrial versus goth versus the most twisted of wraith-like electropop this side of Karin Dreijer Andersson, with no clear front-runner. Hundred Hearts keeps slow, spookifying its throb but losing none of its smooth, sensual heartbreak. If ICBYS is a surreal, dance floor-friendly standout, then Hundred Hearts is the slow number that offers a breather.
Just when you think you’ve grown accustomed to House of Baasa, the duo rocks you out of your comfort zone with the chaotic, all-over-the-map clatter of closer You’ll Never Beat Dogs. On House of Baasa, Zambri excels at combining the eerie with the fun, and the result is one of the more remarkable debuts of 2012. It’s akin to throwing a dance party at an abandoned haunted house.
Essential Tracks: ICBYS, All You Maybes, and Hundred Hearts