After tapes on Steep Gloss and Cruel Nature, we are happy that Stuttgart-based collective Zebularin join the OM family with their new release “Hermetic Topography“.
The album, a product of weekly recording sessions between March and July 2020, just when the pandemic slowed a bit down, might be the closest approach to what communal experiences sounded throughout 2020. It‘s a bold design of how collective improvisation can work in the post-covid era.
The first minute of „Budenzauber“ sets the tone for the whole record. Synth waveforms get joined by a drumset, both settling into a vivid conversation between digital noise and analog free jazz, finding a shared rhythm for this journey.
Daniel Vujanic, known to some from his recordings with Höhlenmusk Ensemble, Ixtar or E Jugend and the driving force behind Zebularin, had this urge to layer electro-acoustic solo material, synths, prerecorded audio meditations, without bending the sounds into detailed harmonic structures, but to build up dense, morphing atmospheres. In came Daniel Kartmann, a combatant in many of Vujanic‘s musical endeavours, his percussions, wind instruments and some deep musical talk - from obscure black metal to brazilian psychedelica, from Scott Walker to Gustav Mahler. The duo laid down basic tracks, kept arrangements vague, creating a perfect environment for a range of other players and instruments to walk in: piano, woodwinds, electronics, ebowed guitars and a vibraphone. The resulting record is a tender, affectionate take on jazz and electroacoustic composition. One can hear the routine of the involved cast as well as the fun, deep listening and correspondence that took place; even though this album was not recorded live in big-band-style, musical ideas interlock on an intuitive level and complement each other.
Take „Peljuga“ as a perfect example, a loosened jazz improv reminding of The Notwist‘s more psychic enhanced moments, which blends into a conversation between a contact mic and heavily manipulated synths and turns into a minimalist piano composition, which melds into a climactic peak and is interrupted only to rise again. And as complex as this description sounds, as uplifting is the actual song. Or the album‘s last track, „Holmen“, which starts out as an underwater ambient piece and evolves pretty organically into cosmic power electronics.
Despite its name and the Heideggerian flair of some song titles, „Hermetic Topography“ is all but hermetic. It‘s rich in musical colours without melting into a quagmire of maximalist noise. It‘s sophisticated but never top-heavy. It might be one of your favourite tapes of 2021.