Bassist-synthesist Steve Moore and Drummer-synthesist A.E. Paterra — that's Zombi to you fellas — have been touring their rumps off for the last year, playing American clubs as both warm-up act and headliner, so they must have recorded Surface To Air when we weren't looking. Or something. The Digitalis EP even preceded the new album by a month, so that's some work.
Zombi's lean, mean sound is back, and with beefy analog sounds complemented by bass riffing and power drumming approximates a Tangram-era Tangerine Dream style with dynamic, not locked, rhythmic structures. Yes, the Dream had a real drummer on albums like Cyclone and Force Majeure but there was a general adherence to four-on-the-floor and static tempi. Not so with A.E. Paterra, who quickly serves up the Peart-meets-Powell fills on the leadoff track. The two short tracks come first, visions of desolate craters and asteroid belts descending on "Challenger Deep" via said fills, a smokin' bass lead, and huge analog strings. Yes, that sustained chord goes on for a spell but without its foundation the track would probably sound half as cool. Or perhaps eighty-seven per cent as cool. Either way, a fantastic opener.
Punchy synthbass and 4-string electric bass are alternately dialled up on "Digitalis," "Legacy," and the title track, bolstered by sterling sawtooth-string pads that evoke otherworldly vistas (for the record, only true blue analog synths are employed, no "virtual analog" or softsynths or any of that nonsense). In spite of its rigorist blueprint and length, the nine-minute "Legacy" never bores; in fact, the general focus on huge analog sounds, sweetly minimalist melodies and warm-blooded drumming tends to make what Zombi do seem novel, though they're far from the first duo to do this sort of thing. But they've certainly got some of the best sounds around. Oh? Mellotrons? Er, doesn't seem like it, though there are strings and choirs in the epic finale "Night Rhythms" that sound close enough! Speaking of, "Night Rhythms" parallels "Taurus" from the previous full-length in its expansive make-up, taking us through Frizzi-esque, Schulzian and (naturally) Goblinoid spheres, Paterra igniting nicely frenetic Copeland-esque patterns and Moore cutting through the mix with a plucky, chunky bass.
Well, it looks like Mark Shreeve's "powersynth" days are long behind him, and Motoi Sakuraba is still closer to the classical-prog keyboard-trio end of the spectrum, so Zombi's the beverage of choice when it comes to an edgy rock & EM hybrid. Mighty tasty. And for the record, Surface To Air is made available nationally so your favorite local indie vendor, as well as larger chains, should stock it. Relapse Records will no doubt do similarly with Cosmos.
1. Challenger Deep (4:28)
2. Digitalis (4:38)
3. Legacy (9:01)
4. Surface To Air (7:37)
5. Night Rhythms (18:34)
Total time – 44:18