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.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.