Not all electronic music aspires to the dancefloor. Since the last decade has seen the pop machine absorb club sounds, pushing softly synthesised production and electronic four-to-the-floor kicks into ubiquitous territory, the original purveyors of the music have moved on to different territories entirely. One label which has always been at the forefront of this post-club/deconstructed dance music has been Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu. Releasing the likes of Venetian Snares’ frantic technical experiments, Claude Speeed’s synthscapes, and Jlin’s jittering footwork, the label is now set to release the debut LP from electronic experimentalist Ziúr – ‘U Feel Anything?’.
Having only released two EPs, ‘Taiga’ and ‘Deeform’ both last year, Berlin-based Ziúr has already carved out a distinct space for herself on the fringes of her city’s scene. Walking the line between introspective investigation, designed for private listening, and cathartic bombast, ideal in the midst of a hectic DJ set, Ziúr embodies the eclectic ethos of her fellow Berliners Kablam and Lotic, as well as the technical explorations of producers like Objekt.
Opener ‘Human Life Is Not A Commodity’ sets the scene with its political message bolstered by the titular human presence of eerily whispered voices playing over meditative bells and a bass drone backing. Throughout ‘U Feel Anything?’, Ziúr plays with this notion of the human in electronic music. The initial intimate vocalisations of ‘Human Life Is Not A Commodity’ may seem familiar, yet their intensity brings to mind the strange disembodiment of ASMR videos, and as Ziúr later manipulates the vocals, soon the human elements become almost unrecognisable.
This purposeful defamiliarisation also occurs with the vocal features on tracks ‘Body of Light’ and ‘Laughing And Crying Are The Same Thing’. ‘Body of Light’, featuring the restlessly creative Aïsha Devi, is all chipmunk vocals over a slowly disintegrating backing, a lurching forth of rattling hi-hats, synth washes, and the occasional stab of snares. While ‘Laughing And Crying Are The Same Thing’, featuring Swedish vocalist Zhala, recontextualises melody behind unsteady orchestration – plucked strings morphing into distorted percussive bursts – constantly subverting listener expectations as the arrangement jumps like an electronic pulse through a synapse.
In the instrumental tracks on the record, Ziúr similarly keeps the listener in a state of engaged discomfort. The title track builds over top-line arpeggios into a pixelated drum pattern, until a rolling bassline reinforces the piece beneath sporadic heaves and squeaks. Numbers like ‘Cipher’, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Fractals’ equally traverse techno experimentation, punk performativity and harmonic concatenation to beg the titular question of the listener: ‘u feel anything (yet)?’.
As an artistic statement, ‘U Feel Anything?’ is certainly accomplished, and demands listening in depth to unravel the intricacies of its production. Yet, as a listening experience, it is overwhelming, frustrating, joyous, and characteristically unpredictable; it will certainly evoke some kind of feeling in its audience, and that is Ziúr’s aim. Ultimately, using the most austere sounds and processed methodology, Ziúr exposes a paradoxical humanity in her work, and one that provokes response.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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