Zombi: Shape Shift

Synth-driven duo returns with a stellar example of why the world still needs post rock.


Shape Shift

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2015-10-16
UK Release Date: 2015-10-16

For those late to the game, Zombi have been writing, recording and releasing superior albums for over a decade but have not issued new material in four years, leaving hardcore fans in a bit of an uncomfortable spot after 2011’s Escape Velocity. Where had Zombi gone? Would Zombi return? We need not have worried it turns out because Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra have given us more reason than ever to embrace their music.

Call it darkwave, post rock, progressive film music or whatever you want, this is the kind of music that brings together heart and microprocessors, the age of technology with the primitive, man-make-fire emotions that allow the music to be loose, unencumbered by over-intellectualization or over-production. Whether because Zombi draw influence from Goblin or composers who land in a similar realm or because it has so much of that aforementioned soul, this record wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 1970s, spinning round and round on a turntable in a dimly lit room while some kid (college or otherwise) contemplated the long-term consequences of the energy crisis or pondered if his or her chromosomes were okay following the meltdown at Three Mile Island.

At the same time, this record’s perfectly up to date or, rather, up to date for those post-rock kids who fell in love with Maserati and Explosions in the Sky and that ilk some years back and can’t get enough of it. That’s not to say that it’s dated but to say that it doesn’t trip on itself trying to be oh-so-2015.

The opening “Pillars of the Dawn” is eerie and epic, unsettling with its foreboding synthesizer passages and familiar rhythms to the point that we can imagine ourselves partaking in a trip through a fog-soaked woods as a night of terror smacks straight into the dawn. “Total Breakthrough” and “Shadow Hand” call to mind Rush’s blending of rock and technology on the Signals album (with a dash of extra darkness thrown in). The eight-minute “Interstellar Package” arrives with all the trappings of a great prog masterpiece and does not disappoint as the song unfolds in its inimitable Zombi way. “Toroidal Voices” has one of the warmest bass figures in recent memory and an appeal that is at first hard to describe but quickly reveals it as something one might be able to dance to.

But it’s glacial closer “Siberia II” that has this listener’s heart, a nearly 15-minute masterpiece of continuous revelation that holds the imagination beat-by-beat, measure-by-measure until the very end, the way a good, smart piece of minimalism might do and its foreboding fade seems to suggest that we might be able to spot a sequel to this piece on the horizon.

This entry in the Zombi oeuvre should sit just fine with longtime fans and for those who are just coming to the table, there’s plenty to find in the duo’s back catalog that should satisfy until the next time these two stumble into a studio and issue another piece of unmistakably strong stuff.






'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

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.