Ziúr Taiga

[Infinite Machine; 2016]

Styles: posthuman club, grime, noisy shit
Others: Kablam, Air Max ’97, Nunu, MM

In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy, Berlin-based producer Ziúr describes her approach to sonic and affective intensities in her practice: “I try to channel my own extremities rather than process them.” Mining darker emotional territory through sound is one of the more interesting features of contemporary club production, with producers employing texture and rhythm to interrogate feelings of pain, loss, and anxiety. These producers tend to avoid empty abstraction, using the affective to encounter the world head-on, with a probing, clear vision.

Happily, this aesthetic directness provides a forceful platform from which to approach issues of gender, identity, and the climate, resulting in some of the most vital contemporary music. Taiga, Ziúr’s first release, resides within this milieu of punishing beats and political/affective engagement. Not content to be a bit-part player in this putative “scene,” Ziúr sets herself apart from her contemporaries through her ability to imbue her tracks with a unique agility and her iconoclastic approach to the intersections of melody, texture, and rhythm.

First track “Fever” begins with a burst of horror-movie strings, which are soon joined by clattering drums and a quick-footed melody. It’s a thundery start to the album, drawing the listener in to Ziúr’s protean sonic world, where sounds are constantly pivoting off one another, accelerating into the distance and snapping back into place. There’s a panoramic quality to the album, a sense that Ziúr is sketching these tracks’ limits, testing their tensile strength. Rhythms emerge at odd angles, agglomerating at moments of intensity before spinning away. Melodies intertwine, snaking off each other, probing, testing. The tracks are defiantly non-linear, forever spiraling outward and swaying inward, anchored by melody and tone, assembling and dispersing. There’s an elegance in the way these tracks return and recur, tightly coiled, full of virtuality. For example, the collage-like “Nails” pairs impressionistic washes of sound, clipped vocals, and martial drums against a slinky guitar figure half buried in the mix. The track accumulates intensity, flowing across zones, interchanging elements, surging forward, before retreating and coming at the listener from another angle: it’s both dizzying and exhilarating.

Ziúr is able to make the album move in this way through her inventive flattening of difference between melody, rhythm, and texture. Take “Lilith,” for example. It’s built around sampled vocals, chopped so as to act percussively. More than that though, these vocals are used in a manner reminiscent of grime square waves: demarcating the boundaries of the track, tracing its contours, and providing melodic propulsion. Here, melody, texture, and percussion are intertwined, their functional differences dissolved. Sonic elements are manipulated, molded, and striated, imbued with potentiality so that they may burst into action at a moment’s notice, reappearing in a different form at a different point in space-time, contributing to some new moment of affective intensity. As a result, Ziúr can afford to pack these tracks with detail, from the distortion in the beats to the intricacy of the melodies and textures, without letting any individual component overwhelm the rest. Taiga is a sculptured, networked album, inventive in its concern for the relation between its elements1 and deadly when placed in concert with other’s work.

As a result of its sonic dexterity, the album has a paranoid, restless edge to it, always looking for alternate ways to navigate space and time. This paranoid quality is one Fredric Jameson argues is necessary when “trying to figure out where we are and what landscapes and forces confront us in a late twentieth century whose abominations are heightened by their concealment and their bureaucratic impersonality.” In the face of an opaque and reticular system, Ziúr will “keep being weird and visible.” Like her contemporaries, Kablam and LSDXOXO, she is producing a politics and an affect that maps, diagnoses, and resists.

1. These elements provide ample fodder for two remixes, by Born in Flamez and Air Max ‘97, who twist the original tracks in bold new ways. Air Max ‘97’s remix may well be “Moments in Love” for the 21st century.

Links: Ziúr - Infinite Machine

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