Ziúr ~ Antifate

Back in 2017, we were blown away by Ziúr‘s debut album U Feel Anything?  At the time, the Berlin’s DJ / composer was already mining new territories.  Over the past few years, she’s continued to chart her own path, flirting with the mainstream on 2019’s ATØ by adding a guest rapper and singer without making any compromise to her vision.  Since then she’s released two EP’s, most recently January’s Now Now, featuring her own voice, which was also a factor on the middle album.  On Antifate, she’s returns to the instrumental fold that our site holds so dear.

While there’s nothing wrong with crossover success, and we love to imagine an alternate universe in which artists like this are all over the radio, it’s more realistic to project that today’s underground influences might eventually be co-opted into future pop pieces.  In terms of Ziúr, this means sonic aggression and an ambivalence ~ although not a disdain ~ for the expectations of society.  Fittingly, Antifate is inspired by such an alternate universe, described as “the mythical land of Cockaigne, a utopia where wine flows freely and houses are made of cake, that provided escapist fantasy for medieval peasants.”  When Ziúr writes about the freedom to be one’s self, she echoes a centuries-old wish that should have come true by now, but still faces the opposition of those with weak imaginations and strong earthly power.  On this album, her response seems to be, “Don’t you worry about them.  Just be yourself.  And if you don’t know who you are, try on new skins.”

The opening “Alive, Unless?” continues Ziúr’s fondness for open-ended questions, and implies the completion of the thought: alive unless we give in and become like them.  Inarticulate voices slide over speaker-wandering chords and hard, assertive beats.  In the backdrop of the final minute, a buried melody tugs at the ears like a thought at the back of the mind: things could be different.  The raindrop drums of “Orange Cream Drip” meet a shaker mid-piece, inciting a trance.  What will we learn when we awake?  The percussion stops and starts, stops and starts.  Are these barriers or reflective pauses?  Then the industrial title track: the voices are more insistent, the environment harsher.  After entering a cloud of drone, the voices reemerge as if strangled, fighting for air.  But then a return to equilibrium, voice and drone making peace, a sonic metaphor.

As organic elements are added, they offer a mitigating influence: piano, bass, clarinet, saxophone, flute.  The world is not all harsh; there is still some beauty to be found, not only in the mind but in reality, if only we can push through the thickets of Oughts and Shoulds to find that land in which we can be ourselves, where wine flows freely and houses are made of cake.  We suspect that even medieval peasants knew that there was no such place, but that if they could imagine it, it could be built.  Ziúr is stitching it together with sound.  (Richard Allen)

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