Zombi – Escape Velocity

Posted on May 4, 2011

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5/10/2011

My introduction to Zombi happened at the WOW Hall in Eugene, Ore. They were opening for Isis (R.I.P.), my favorite band at the time who I had also never seen live before. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to just fast-forward through the guests to get the main gig underway, so when two dudes who looked like they had just to a mid-70s King Crimson lineup sauntered onstage and seated themselves behind a gaudy electro-acoustic drumkit and synthesizer/bass guitar rig, respectively, the eye rolling ensued. For the next half hour, Anthony Paterra built hypnotic rhythms both organic and mechanical, over which Steve Moore layered looped, repeating analog keys and deeply grooved basslines. Upon their set’s end, I felt a familiar pinch in my upper spine, and realized I had been bobbing my head throughout most of the performance. So subversive was Zombi’s style that I was unaware my own noggin had been moving to the Pittsburgh act’s innately percussive attack.

Since that fateful night in 2006, Zombi have evolved from horror film soundtrack-aping newcomers (their band name references both the international title of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and its two unofficial sequels by Italian gore great Lucio Fulci) to full-on space prog prodigies. 2009’s Spirit Animal was a welcome foray into rock bombast, with the band expanding their palette by mixing electric guitar into the whirring robotic exoskeleton of sound. Escape Velocity is as nuanced as its predecessor was blunt, the lumbering elephant ready to crash through the cover of Spirit Animal has been replaced with a tilted landscape of nude, statuesque women spacewalking away from the viewer, presumably into the album’s comforting sonic atmosphere.

“It’s warm up here, man,” they seem to say. “Join us. Here, we’ll even drop a phasing synth step on the opening title track to set your pace for take off. Yeah, Paterra, hit ‘em with some snare backbeat. That’s the stuff. Alright, here we go now. Are you ready?

“The air is pretty thin up here. ‘Shrunken Heads’’ blips and bloops are getting lost in the expanse, just echoing and echoing and echoing. You think somewhere down there someone is tapping their foot to this pulsing kick-snare pattern? I wonder if this will just carry out into the expanse until some advanced alien race processes those swelling chords and attempts to match them in its unique tone. You think their ears will comprehend the minor key tractor beam that is ‘Time of Troubles’ as it’s lassoing our weightless bodies? Will they hear it as a call to explore or a warning to remain on their homeworld?”

“Man, the clouds are zooming by so quickly I can’t even think right now. Let me plant my feet on familiar ground so we can relaunch this mission. You’ll hear a coherent answer once these signals stop bouncing around the inside of my skull.”

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