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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Zombi

Escape Velocity

Review by Mike Korn

Zombi is a long-running duo who have made their mark in the progressive electronic music scene. Although their name suggests creepy crawly horror soundtrack stuff, Escape Velocity has more of a clean, futuristic sci-fi feel to it. It is true that in the past Zombi drew a ton of influence from Goblin and their Italian "giallo" music score, but now they seem more influenced by the synth soundtracks to such retro SF epics as "Logan's Run,” "Blade Runner" and "Escape From New York" as well as the more futuristic krautrock practitioners like Neu.

The Zombi formula is deceptively simple and is based on simple layers of sounds and rhythms that gradually build up and overlap each other. By the end of each of their lengthy tracks, the elemental has become the sophisticated. Escape Velocity is recommended for fans of futuristic prog that don't mind a lack of vocals.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Escape Velocity

A fast and slinky synth arpeggio kicks the title track off, then the analog drums add their own bite. One of the things that sets Zombi apart from similar bands is the warm, human sound of the drumming. The synth riff continues with minor tweaks and changes that catch the ear and keep things from getting dull. A few minutes in, mournful but strident synth tones that sound almost like brass, layer themselves on top of what we've heard and give the song a different flavor. The end result is something sounds a lot like a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack to a SF or spy film.

Slow Oscillations
A very fast, swirling cloud of synth notes start this off, anchored by a bass riff. Again, those brass-like synths chime in over the top with a melody that is wistful and spacey. Lots of cosmic FX and "swooshes" embellish this brief bit of sci-fi goodness.
Shrunken Heads
Despite the gruesome title, this cut is not overtly horror-inspired but it does have a certain eerie touch. Another simple synth riff bubbles and percolates along with mysterious washes of sound in the background. The drums are a lot more mechanical sounding when they kick in. Deep, foreboding tones make their presence known and make this the spookiest song on the album.  The track gradually deconstructs itself, becoming more and more muted until vanishing.
DE3
The longest song on the disc, this starts in the typical Zombi way, with a looping synthesizer arpeggio and loud, clear synth tones oozing over it. There are a lot of layers of synth here and this is probably the closest the album gets to a straight dance track. I really like the very mysterious, "lonesome"-sounding motif that works its way into it. This song is like a sonic onion where you peel away different layers to get to the core. It's a bit on the long side for my taste.
Time of Troubles
In contrast to the other tunes, this begins with just slow, gloomy synth and no driving arpeggios. Dragging drums and some fat, lower end notes soon join in, but the composition has a very torpid and depressing air to it. Gradually, other layers of sound begin to manifest, but the track never loses its somber feeling. I much prefer the more up tempo stuff to this frankly dull tune.
 
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