Ziúr U Feel Anything?

[Planet Mu/Objects Limited; 2017]

Styles: metal, resonance, joy, disruption
Others: Jlin, Air Max ‘97, Aïsha Devi

In a recent interview with The Wire, Jlin stressed the need for her music to elicit feelings in the listener, over and above moving them to dance. In her words, “whether you felt good or bad about a track of mine, the point was you felt.” Berlin-based producer Ziúr takes a similar affect-centric approach on her debut album, U Feel Anything?, an album that grabs the listener by the arm and throws them deep into its complex and fervent sonic world. This is an album of extremes — blastbeat percussion and golden-glistening synths, serene pop and ferocious club — but not of oppositions. Rather, it seems best to consider the ways in which Ziúr’s sounds resonate with each other, to trace the ways in which they touch, tease, and collide. Indeed, it often seems easier to describe what Ziúr’s tracks do than how they sound.

Take, for example, “Human Life Is Not A Commodity.” A study in resonance, the track brings together sonorous metallics, rich synth, and sussurating voices, and watches how they ring out, conjoining and overlapping. It’s an opening, or a series of openings, a movement into a wide expanse of sound — a world. Ziúr’s music is often gestural in this way, pointing toward and producing worlds. Its forms are open and contiguous — ecologies of sound, shape, and texture. Just as the listener is thrown into these worlds, the sounds themselves are thrown — stretched and reduced, their edges blurring with the force of the movement.

“Laughing And Crying Are The Same Things (ft. Zhala)” builds its world patiently, forging club sonics into a sinuous, shapeshifting R&B that clicks, hisses, and cracks, bringing free-jazz squall and precise cello vamps into its orbit. Zhala’s vocals nestle deep in the innards of the beat(s), nimbly surfing their peaks and troughs, pining for tactility and contact (“Into your membrane/ I want to rub it all”). This openness — to being touched, to being affected from without — limns the album, bathing it in a haptic potentiality, a porous capacity to explore genres, moods, and spaces. And for the listener, the openness of these sounds means that there can be no place for studied indifference, no outside perspective from which to view this music objectively. One can only be inside, in the yaw, with the sound. The kinds of feelings this music engenders — fear, joy, serenity, pain — and the kinds of movement it hails — contortion, disruption, transformation — are overwhelming, washing over and through us. Time distends as we are subsumed by the squall, the track’s trajectories becoming impossible to discern, the sounds riotous and precise. This music does not ask, it demands.

“Fractals” closes out the album with pealing guitar and a panoply of drum fills, hits, and kicks. The track crackles with lambent energy, shocking to the touch. Its ferocity is surgical, its sounds a network of interests, intentions, and desires, threaded together by sinuous noise. It is sonic kin to Ursula Le Guin’s carrier bag theory of fiction, “full of beginnings without ends, of initiations, of losses, of transformations and translations.” Ziúr is disinterested in linearity, in finality. Her music is not to be concretized or reified. It communicates its meaning through weight and heft, through the angles of its objects, through force and touch, through unbounded gestures and precise production. As it refracts outward, her sounds trouble the boundaries of club music and experimental composition, playing with them, threading one through the other, creating new grammars of feeling, new structures of movement. Ziúr: “I take [people] on a journey and demand attention; I introduce [them] to a world of me, basically.”

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