Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Surface to Air - Zombi (#1, 2006)

Zombi is a synth-bass/drums-synth instrumental duo. They were originally from Pittsburgh, land of Romero. Zombi was the title of Dario Argento's Italian edit of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Argento's soundtracks were often done by Italian prog group Goblin, who are a key influence - on Zombi. Now based in Chicago.

"Digitalis" from Surface to Air (2006)

Not even my favorite Zombi! But every few times I listen to Surface to Air, it creeps just a little bit closer to the mighty Cosmos (2004). Ironically, as they made a bigger move towards blown-out prog rock, they also tightened up to a single-album format. Horror soundtrack auteurs Goblin (from Dario Argento's films) and John Carpenter (from John Carpenter's films) have to make a little room for Rush and maybe even early Genesis. Which is only half as nerdy as it sounds, but twenty times as cool. The change is especially evident on the first song, "Challenger Deep" - live 8/26/2006 in Phoenix (with "Digitalis"). The front section focuses on thumping bass guitar and flailing drum fills, which eventually pull back for a rising synth dread. Small details keep moving within the bigger scheme, but major changes are built towards gradually. It's great theme music!

"Digitalis" (embedded above) is more sequencer-based, shifting the soundfield around until the drums lock in. More synth layers slowly accumulate as the drums notch up the intensity. It's the most like previous Zombi stuff, taking a more direct path between start and end. And those are the two hit-ready, radio-friendly under-five-minute songs. "Legacy" is 9 minutes of pure prog dynamics, with several interlocking sections that flow into and out of one another. And plenty of impressive playing from really every direction: synth leads, drum parts, and especially the bass. (Okay, I made possibly the laziest, crappiest video ever. Might have to revisit this one later... Enjoy!!)

We finally get to the title track (above, and partial edits in Chicago and in Detroit). As it starts off, you might look over your shoulder for Michael Myers coming after you. But then the main riff kicks in, carrying the momentum forward and continually mutating. Once that theme's run its course, it drops back behind a drifting, extended tangerine dreamscape of synth fields.

And the record ends with the epic "Night Rhythms" (part 1/part 2). This tune really sprawls out... Starting with ominous foreboding tones, then heightening the tension with some tantalizing sequencer patterns, then finally breaking into a frenetic chase. So, kind of like an epic synthesizer concept track version of a slasher movie. At over 18 minutes, it's the longest song they've ever done, and possibly stretched a little thin at parts. But in my opinion, there's not too many groups even attempting this kind of thing, and if any are succeeding as well, I'd sure like to know!

[What I do for these long ones: open video(s) and immediately hit Pause, then allow the song(s) to buffer fully, then Play each without all the hitches.]

Surface to Air
Official - zombi.us/
Myspace - myspace.com/zombi
Purchase - Relapse Records
iTunes - Zombi

Genre - Horror Soundtrack Synth-Prog
Review - Sonic Frontiers

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