Zeebee Chemistry

[Angelika Koehlermann; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: electronica, downtempo, trip-hop
Others: Sneaker Pimps, Bjork, Portishead

The advent of the "information age" has brought with it a mentality of mass introversion that has taken hold on our society. People are out of sync without their cell phones, yet can't seem to communicate with one another in person. E-mail has become the preferred method of communication, rather than writing letters or even walking fifteen feet to ask a question of the guy two cubes over at work. The internet has made it possible to shop without even having to get out of one's pajamas, much less leave the house. Now, in a world where file-sharing has become a commonplace (albeit "illegal") method of obtaining music, the music itself, in many cases, seems to be aimed at the individual rather than the target audience as a group. A great deal of current mainstream and independently distributed music is recorded in such a way that it is essential that it be listened to on headphones, thereby forcing the listener to focus on the music in a more intimate, introspective manner.

Zeebee is a native Austrian vocalist and songwriter whose new album Chemistry is a collection of tracks that sounds excellent played really loud, but exhibits an otherworldly pop complexity when examined under the headphone "microscope." The record features a combination of exotic yet unorthodox songwriting and engaging, hypnotic instrumentation. Chemistry is also one of the sexiest releases since the debut LPs from Garbage and Ruby in the early '90s. Zeebee's voice is unusual and captivating, falling somewhere between Billie Holliday, Portishead's Beth Gibbons, and The Cranes' Alison Shaw. Zeebee's songwriting, like her voice, seems to simultaneously display a childlike simplicity and the maturity of experience. Chemistry's second track, "My Thing to Do" is reminiscent of Bjork's songwriting circa The Sugarcubes' Life's Too Good.

There is a surprising degree of variety among the individual tracks on Chemistry; hints of jazz, folk, hip hop, neo-funk, and trance gel together into a delightful mixture of sensible pop and laid-back grooves. The tracks here are slightly off-kilter, but nonetheless captivating works of perfect pop. The production is phenomenal on all of these pieces as well, and the final track, "Pain & Pleasure," was even produced by Mille Plateaux's elusive Curd Duca. Furthermore, I've found it hard to believe that, despite having been a songwriter for many years, she has only just now released her debut. But she evidently hit her stride. Zeebee has a knack for melody, songwriting, and unusual yet sophisticated pop structure. This is an immediately likeable album that will hopefully get some much deserved exposure.

1. Chemistry
2. My Thing to Do
3. Truth
4. Tender
5. Visit You
6. Lost & Found
7. Open Up Your Eyes
8. Race
9. Soul Collateral
10. Pain & Pleasure

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