Salami Rose Joe Louis' 'Zdenka 2080' Tells a Dystopian But Still Hopeful Allegory of Ecocidal Capitalism

Photo: Cinque Mubarak / Courtesy of Mute Records

On the 22-track concept album Zdenka 2080, Bay Area musician and planetary scientist Salami Rose Joe Louis shuffles nu jazz, dream pop, and hip-hop vibes into the soundtrack for a dystopian sci-fi allegory of ecocidal capitalism.

Zdenka 2080
Salami Rose Joe Loui


30 August 2019

The year is 2080, the elites have secretly planned an interplanetary exodus from the rapidly cooling earth, and the young protagonist Salami is left with the Others to solve this human-made apocalypse. And no, this isn't a synopsis to a dystopian film or novel but a concept album from the newest Brainfeeder signee. On her third album Zdenka 2080, Lindsay Olsen, aka Salami Rose Joe Louis, shuffles nu jazz, dream pop, and hip-hop vibes into the soundtrack for a dystopian sci-fi allegory of ecocidal capitalism.

Zdenka 2080 steadily runs through 22 brief but dense tracks. Immediately, the album takes off with a sprightly chorus on the jangly opener "Suddenly". Olsen enters with dazed, reverb-laden vocals, "Suddenly she finds life / Challenging, stripping her / Of her given light." Suddenly, the appropriately titled opener quickly cuts the dreamy vocals and watery guitars at about a minute and a half. This immediate brevity sets up the album's large collection of quick-hitting tracks with short run-times, forming a beat tape-esque design. But much like her labelmates at Brainfeeder, Olsen pushes the idea of what a beat tape can be, weaving together several genres, stories, and social criticism.

On the second track "Octagonal Room", Olsen introduces an ambitious dystopian narrative over a celestial, jazzy key progression. She narrates in a soothing voice-over tone, "Planet Earth, year 2080: Major corporations and the governments of the world… harness and store the energy of the sun." Of course, this ecocidal venture is not for the benefit of everyone but merely the elites. The sun's energy is used to fuel interplanetary colonialism for the rich, "a one-way trip to a distant, habitable, resource - plentiful planet on another galaxy". And so, the Others are left to scavenge the cooling, dying earth. But as the young protagonist Salami unexpectedly steps into a painting to discover a new dimension, she begins a cosmic search for solutions.

Thereafter, from the heavy beat sampling on "Cirrus Floccus / Second Dimension" to the poppy "Lalalalala" on "Cumulous Potion (For the Clouds to Sing)", Zdenka 2080 is clearly not held together by any genres but rather a broader concept and feeling. The overarching aesthetic is certainly nebulous and spaced-out, but there is also a deepening sense of hopelessness. On "Meet Zee in 3 - D / Third Dimension", Olsen softly croons over cold keyboards and fragile, frigid guitars, "I don't like to sing anymore / Lost my feeling." Salami continues to travel through new dimensions to find answers, but the earthling's growing sense of pessimism continues to grow infectious. This desperation sonically builds to the end of side A, as the elites finally realize that their ecocidal mission affects not only the Others but also themselves.

This acknowledgment of the universe's fragile ecosystem brings side A of Zdenka 2080 to a close. Side B begins the earthlings' long journey to replenish what the corporations and government ravished from the sun and earth, and the story progresses into theories of the imaginary and collectivism. To cue the cerebral narrative turn, Olsen's lyrics become more abstract and the music veers more into cosmic jazz. "Earth Creature" truly embraces the sounds of spaced out jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, and "Collision, Gravity, Time" further experiments with erratic keyboard riffs and synthesis. Zdenka 2080 is an intricate amalgam of music and fiction inspirations, from artists like Shuggie Otis, Stereolab, Octavia Butler, and Gene Wolf. Yet, Olsen's ability to create her own defining aesthetic and social critique is clear as side B progresses, making Zdenka 2080 a unique experience.

Zdenka 2080 closes with the head-spinning beat "To Be Continued…". The elites are forced to return to Earth to join Salami in the daunting task of restoring what they destroyed. Their fate is still unwritten, and this is exactly the position we are in now. We are aware of capitalism's detrimental effect on our environment. In fact, as I write this, thousands of fires are burning in the Amazon, fueled by Bolsonarism and an international trade war. So, Olsen rightfully ends Zdenka 2080 with an essential question. How will our story of ecocidal capitalism, classism, and colonialism end, and can we collectively imagine a better future?






The 12 Best Brian Wilson Songs

From massive hits to obscure, experimental pop compositions, Brian Wilson's music is always thoughtful, idiosyncratic, and as thrilling today as it was in the 1960s.


Victoria Bailey's "Skid Row" Exemplifies the Bakersfield Sound (premiere + interview)

Victoria Bailey emerges with "Skid Row", a country romp that's an ode to an LA honky-tonk and the classic California Bakersfield sound.


Activism Starts at Home: A Conversation with S.G. Goodman

Folk rocker S.G. Goodman discusses changing hearts and minds in the rural American South, all while releasing her debut album in the middle of a global pandemic. Goodman is a rising artist to watch.


Shinichi Atobe's 'Yes' Sports an Appealing Electronic Eeriness

Despite its reverence for the roots of house music, an appealing eeriness blows through electronic producer Shinichi Atobe's Yes like a salty sea breeze.


Irmin Schmidt Meets John Cage on 'Nocturne'

Irmin Schmidt goes back to his Stockhausen roots with a new live album, Nocturne: Live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.


Country's Corb Lund Finds the Absurd in 'Agricultural Tragic'

On Corb Lund's Agricultural Tragic, he sings of grizzly bears, tattoos, hunting rats and elk, the meaning of author Louis L'Amour's fiction, and the meaning of life.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

How Aaron Sorkin and U2 Can Soothe the Pandemic Mind

Like Aaron Sorkin, the veteran rock band U2 has been making ambitious, iconic art for decades—art that can be soaring but occasionally self-important. Sorkin and U2's work draws parallels in comfort and struggle.


Jockstrap's 'Wicked City' Is an Unfolding of Boundaries

On Wicked City, UK art-pop duo Jockstrap run through a gamut of styles and sounds, sometimes gracefully, sometimes forcefully, but always seductively.


Chewing the Fat: Rapper Fat Tony on His Latest Work From Hip-hop's Leftfield

Fat Tony proves a bright, young artist making waves amongst the new generation of hip-hop upstarts.


The Bobby Lees Strike the Punk-Blues Jugular on Jon Spencer-Produced 'Skin Suit'

The Bobby Lees' Skin Suit is oozing with sex, sweat and joyful abandon. It's a raucous ride from beginning to end. Cover to cover, this thing's got you by the short hairs.


'Perramus: The City and Oblivion' Depicts Argentina's Violent Anti-Communist Purge

Juan Sasturain and Alberto Breccia's graphic novel Peraramus: The City and Oblivion, is an absurd and existential odyssey of a political dissident who can't remember his name.


Daniel Avery's Versatility Is Spread Rather Thin on 'Love + Light'

Because it occasionally breaks new ground, Daniel Avery's Love + Light avoids being an afterthought from start to finish. The best moments here are generally the hardest-hitting ones.


Khruangbin Add Vocals But Keep the Funk on 'Mordechai'

Khruangbin's third album Mordechai is a showcase for their chemistry and musical chops.


Buscabulla Chronicle a Return to Puerto Rico in Chic Synthwave on 'Regresa'

Buscabulla's authenticity -- along with dynamite production chops and musicianship -- is irreplaceable, and it makes Regresa a truly soulful synthwave release.


The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.


12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.


Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.