Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zombi: Escape Velocity

     I actually forgot about this record after I first heard it. I've been meaning to review it for a while, but just haven't got round to doing so, a mistake I hope to correct now! Zombi are a space-rock duo consisting of Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra., the former of whom has a prominent career in b-movie soundtracks. 'Escape Velocity' was released this year as their fourth full-length lp, and it's another solid effort from the group. Taking into consideration Moore's previous work, it doesn't take a genius to deduce that the band specialise in a very soundtrack-esque style of rock. Despite this, the sound from them has progressed and changed over time, as all progressive bands probably should. From 2006's 'Surface to Air' to the 09 album 'Spirit Animal', Zombi began to steer away from their use of synthesisers. This lead to the latter album ending up a lot less spacey, with an incorporation of bass and electric guitar making it a heavier, more rock orientated epic. 
     This record however, reinvents Zombi's sound yet again. It manages to tone it down slightly, while retaining that thought-provoking, story telling element that makes their music great. A basic collection of songs built around drums and synthesisers, the only complaint I have is a small one. Three years after their last release, 'Escape Velocity' is only half an hour long? A slight disappointment, but that's only because I like it quite a lot!
     Far from being stark and empty however, which you might infer from their relatively lacking number of instruments, Moore squeezes the most out of the things he's got. Every negative space is filled with synthesiser after synthesiser in a way both imaginative and immersive. Fuses are immediately lit by the opening title track, whose detached synth passage merges slowly with catchy, head-nodding drums. This album for me, sounds decidedly progressive, but here and there you can hear respective harks to the bygone legends of space-rock. Other-worldly sounds (which seem present in a few albums lately) fill the remainder of the first track, with an abrupt ending introducing the remarkable 'Slow Oscillations'. Besides being great, it's the only track here that's below three minutes long, making it the perfect choice for today's embedded mp3. The airbrushed album cover feels very sci-fi, and this number is an outstanding emulation of that concept. It's quick and airy synthesisers contrast with the deeper, throbbing backing track, and the image of a space-ship's corridor, bright and futuristic, is drawn in your mind. The next eight minute monster, 'Shrunken Heads', is the second longest on the album, with it's mesmerising reverb and undeniable mark of producer Giorgio Moroder. Dance beats and trance sensibilities thrill.
     Coming to the final two tracks, I admit that I lied. I actually have two complaints. The first being the length of 'Escape Velocity' and the second being it's coherence. With most of the tracks running for a fair amount of time, if you're not used to Zombi I can see a lot of the sounds coming off as directionless. I personally don't mind this, but for me, that factor has been amplified, obviously unintentionally, for this release. That being said, the next track 'DE3' is simple awe-inspiring. From the fade-out of 'Shrunken Heads' comes this epic anthemic masterpiece. It's like watching a star die. From the emptiness of space explodes a light, beautiful and almost angelic. As it unfurls, you look through the vast clouds of dust and see another world, colourful and warm. That too is being destroyed, and you realise slowly that nothing lasts forever. I'm not going to start another paragraph to close, but I feel as though 'Time Of Trobules' isn't suited to be the closing track. It's not a bad song, but the tired fade-out doesn't seem the most dynamic and exciting way Zombi could have ended. Overall however, this is another solid effort from one of the greatest pair of modern prog-rockers. This experience is cut shorter than I would have liked, but in the end, it's thoroughly enjoyable, and well worth half an hour of any music lover's time!

'Slow Oscillations'