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Zeller: Turbulences

img  Tobias Fischer

Part I: "The infection has been removed/ The soul of this machine has improved" (Fear Factory - „Archetype“)
This album is like a process: Precise. Planned. Eficient. Like an algorithm: Unambiguous. Definitive. Pure. Like a high-tech alloy: Flexible. Tough. Imperishable. Zeller has skeletised his already stripped-down style even further, leaving nothing but polished steel and razorsharp edges. Beats are analysed, anatomised and atomised, broken apart into brutish bass drums, spark-emitting hihats, metallic snares and finely chiseled percussive molecules. Harmonic textures are ripped, rotated and reversed, deconstructed into scattered formants, decomposed into scant swells and scary overtones, their former lushness sterilised. Melodies feel like invasive viruses, like incidental digital emissions, like needles piercing acoustic tissue, like robots turning virtual dials in cyberspace. The turbulences mentioned in its title are everywhere: In seemingly meditative soundscapes coughed up by propulsive sequences. In the instable structure of grooves rippled by the constant replacement of singular elements. In a narrative oscillating between a plethora of styles, a cornucopia of moods, between hard-to-place quotes and entirely idiosyncratic utterances.

Part II: „Anything can be dubbed. You just have to find the dub.“ (Lee „Scratch Perry“ - „Dub Echoes“)
Keeping this combustible cocktail together is „the dub“. Dub not so much in the sense of a genre or a label. But rather as a compositional principle. An aesthetic on sound. A philosophy. For Zeller, this first of all translates to ultimate minimalism in terms of instrumentation. Most of these sixteen tracks rely on little more than drums, bass and a few effects. Only rarely and for very good reasons does the occasional chord or incidental motive make its entrance – but none of them stay for long. Within these minutely delineated arrangements, however, dub at the same time signifies a maximalism in terms of sonic exploration. Each element is taken to its extremes: Basses wobble, groan and moan. Metrics are assembled into patterns too complex for the human mind to decipher. References run through a slowed-down somnambulant version of Drum n Bass, apocalyptic HipHop, quirky, post-Kraftwerk'ean Electro and, especially in the later stages of the record, glorious, grand and garish Dubstep. There is no middle ground here: Tracks are either short, cramming megabytes worth of ideas into the tiniest of temporal spaces. Or they're epic, the latter congenially represented by gargantuan nine-minute climax „Zion Asteroid“.

Part III: „The year 2000 has been here since yesterday“ (Leftfield feat. Afrika Bambaataa - „Africa Shox“)

But there's more to „Turbulences“ than just the extravagance and willfulness of its compositions. Part of its allure stems from its meticulously refined artwork and sound-design. Even though never outspokenly programmatic or conceptual, titles like „supernova“, „dark matter observatory“, „galactic dust“ and „seneretatis mare“ (which may denominate a giant ocean on a yet-to-be-discovered planet in a galaxy too far for today's telescopes to detect), clearly point towards cosmic themes and the inexplicable beauty and incomprehensible infinity of space as a metaphor for the human desire to confront the unknown and unexplored. The music mirrors these sentiments by consciously confusing its audience's sense of orientation, challenging passed-down truths and dissolving traditional dogmas into a free ebb and tide of materials. On the one hand, the exuberance is controlled by the reductive tendencies of dub. On the other, it is further supported by the desire of crushing borders, burning all bridges and transcending all limits: There is undeniably, at any time during the record's duration, more happening here than can easily be taken in even by the most attentive listeners and the album's excessive duration can equally be regarded as an effort of choosing a creative container so colossal that it defies orientation.

Part IV: „Oh my God—it's full of stars!“ (Dr David Bowman - „2001“)
The underlying motivation may be that increased awareness comes at a price. Or maybe simply that albums, which span an entire world of their own and allow the listener to immerse themselves in them completely, are frequently those that one eventually cherishes for life. Which is not to say that „Turbulences“ were without immediate gratification. Quite on the contrary: In the end, it is the absolute clarity with which its creator's intentions are shining through that makes it such a rewarding journey.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Zeller
Homepage: Tympanik Audio

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