OLAN (real name Luzana Flores) has announced that her debut album ‘Contra’ will be released June 10 via independent record label Anjunadeep. The announcement comes alongside the release of the powerful lead single ‘Wake And Return’, out now.
The Georgia state native has a colourful songwriting catalogue, including co-writing credits for ‘Buss It’ for Ari Lennox, collaborations with Mat Zo on his 2020 album ‘Illusion of Depth’, the single release of ‘In Motion’ with rising star Nourey, and ‘Push’, first released on Anjunadeep’s Reflections series. Now, OLAN emerges from the uncertainty of the pandemic with her debut album.
The culmination of many months in solitude, ‘Contra’ began as a natural form of escape and expression for OLAN, helping her find peace amidst the years of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic:
“‘Contra’ is an album I wrote as a way to find some peace with my life having no definitive purpose at the time. I often try to attach meaning to everything I encounter. I force myself to re-live memories. I’ll try to unpack them and see how I could change my reality if I had just been a better person.”
Musically, ‘Contra’ is inculcated with a variety of electronic styles from melodic house, breakbeat, downtempo and drum & bass, to ambient and hip-hop. Influenced by the likes of Maribou State, Little Dragon, T.E.E.D and Bonobo, as well as the cult video game ‘Outer Wilds’, the sound of ‘Contra’ is fluid and alluringly hard to pin down. OLAN’s penchant for textural soundscapes is showcased in atmospheric tracks such as ‘Push’ and ‘Submerge’ and the buoyant Balearic vibes of ‘Material’. Conversely, the jungle rhythms and acid basslines on ‘Promise To Keep’ and ‘Reckoning’ demonstrate how raw, energetic dance-inducing songwriting comes naturally to the Atlanta-based producer.
The aforementioned themes of self-awareness and self-acceptance are persistent throughout the album, realised in OLAN’s considered lyrics. Opening track ‘Submerge’ contemplates the cyclical nature of life’s lessons, exclaiming “there’s no limit to the depth that I can relive it all”. Other tracks such as 'Promise To Keep' and 'Ultraviolet' raise questions about fulfilment and where it comes from - "I'm asking more questions / Taking no secrets / But is there a message / When nothing is sacred?". Each song presented a cathartic moment for Lu, as she explains:
“Making this album was the first time I could be present the grief, loneliness, or isolation I felt when my expectations didn’t match my surroundings. It made me realize how much happier I am when I detach from stories or specific outcomes.”
A gifted and classically trained musician who learnt her craft between orchestra classes and worship bands, OLAN prominently incorporated her own live instrumentation and vocals whilst recording the album. Suitably, Flores will take ‘Contra’ on tour live this year, with performances at Beyond Wonderland, Ultra, The Gorge Weekender, and alongside Ben Böhmer on his North American tour.
As a queer woman of colour, OLAN is used to standing out, however, it is her capacity for all-encompassing production, dynamic songwriting, singing, and instrumentation that really sets her apart from her contemporaries.