The rare Relapse-affiliated band that doesn’t play metal, Zombi find their own density and heaviness through cosmic, synthesizer-heavy means. Indeed, there is something massive and epic about Zombi’s music, like a soundtrack to some lost sci-fi masterpiece of dystopian cityscapes and interplanetary travel. For nearly a decade, Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra have tapped into the hypnotic and sprawling sound of ’70s prog, be it that of Neu! or Rush, and fused it with the sci-fi disco aesthetic of Giorgio Moroder, coming out the other side with a sound both futuristic and retro, and almost always thoroughly invigorating.
Moore and Paterra continue to pursue such a path on new album Escape Velocity, and as the nude-women-with-Delorean album cover somewhat cheekily suggests, their prog odyssey indulgences haven’t subsided in the least. Yet Zombi’s brand of guitarless, instrumental prog is, somewhat paradoxically, not all that decadent. Though three of the album’s five songs sprawl past the seven-minute mark, there are very few moments that seem overdone or meandering. Rather, these tracks slowly unfold and stretch out into fascinating sonic territory, building almost more like techno or house tracks, key highlight “Shrunken Heads” actually treading somewhat close to disco itself.
Paterra provides a crucial aspect to Zombi’s powerful aesthetic, his drumming providing an added weight to the songs that, on their own, might drift into nebulous abstraction. Yet he grounds them with a heaviness that lends a compelling juxtaposition against Moore’s synth work. The title track positively stomps, with deep, bassy synthesizers throbbing and pulsing above Paterra’s massive thwacks. Yet on “DE3,” the album’s lengthiest track at just over nine minutes, Paterra takes a more measured, disciplined approach, slowly tapping his way into a gradual climax and escalating into danceable albeit forceful beats in the track’s mighty second half.
Though Zombi is made up of only two members, the band sounds truly colossal when they reach their most soaring peaks. Yet this music is also very streamlined and sleek. It takes a disciplined and carefully controlled band to make these elements work together, and on Escape Velocity, Zombi achieves that harmony early on, and never lets up.
Neu! – Neu!
Giorgio Moroder – From Here to Eternity
Goblin – Roller
Stream: Zombi – “Shrunken Heads”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.