If you have a penchant for experimental electronic compositions, synthetic film scores from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, and 8-16 bit video game music, then it would be worth your while to check out Zombie Zombie. They are clearly pioneering a new sub genre of music that can only be classified as “Electro Murder.” The band is comprised of a French duo, Etienne Jaumet (Electronics/Keys/Synths) and CosmicNeman (Percussion/Voice), who have been creating music together since 2006 when they first released their self-titled EP. They followed this with a full-length album in 2008, entitled A Land For Renegades, released on LP February 22nd, and CD June 10th by Versatile Records.
The album has a very consistent feel to it, while not falling into the stale rut of most electronic music. There is no thumping bass or classic rock samples in these compositions. The foundation of each song is an actual drum track played along to the accompanying sounds, as opposed to a drum machine, which has performance limitations. There are two consistent variables that make Zombie Zombie stand out and those are the members/musicians. Each song is unique and distinguishable from the rest. The best way to describe the overall vibe generated by Zombie Zombie is to imagine if John Carpenter had written and performed the score for the film TRON. Zombie Zombie makes no mystery out of their intent; they want to evoke a sense of horror and fear in the listener using nothing but sound and rhythm.
The album begins with a very Carpenteresque track entitled “Driving this road until death sets you free.” The steady rhythm of this track guides the listener through a chilling auditory assault that gradually builds into a sonic tapestry of horror. It is a good opener for the album, as well as a good introduction of the band for first time listeners. As that track winds down it segues into the next, “I’m afraid of what’s there.” This track further explores the haunting intentions of the band by incorporating an eerie vocal track that is reminiscent of a ghostly echo warning someone why they died.
The album then shifts gears into the more upbeat title track, “A land for renegades.” This song sounds as though it is set to a post-apocalyptic prison break. At nearly nine and half minutes it has many escalating movements that keep the underlining energy driving. One can almost envision an urban landscape over run with midnight warriors pursuing a lone gunslinger while this song plays in the background. From there the album takes a subdued, ambient turn with “What’s happening in the city?” One of the few tracks with vocals, they are quite cryptic and read more like a public service announcement that primes for a Zombie onslaught, and only make sense in the context of its title.
The songs on “A Land For Renegades” are arranged in a fluctuating order, which continually keeps the listener off balance. This contrast enables the album to further explore the theme of unspeakable horror, and the delusional, frantic nature experienced by characters in a horrific situations. Tracks like “Before Night Falls,” could easily be placed on the soundtrack for one of George Romero’s “Living Dead” epics. Its up-tempo rhythm, coupled with a creepy, tranquil melody, really captures the urgency of a fatal pursuit. This is balanced by more mellow tracks like “Texas Rangers,” which has a clear, gradual progression to its structure. In the overall horror movie theme generated by these songs, this track exhibits the point where the lunatic/creatures are on the prowl. At different points in the song you can even hear the sounds of unknown slurping and feasting mixed into the layers of this composition.
An interesting addition to this album is a cover of Iggy Pop’s ultra sedated song, “Nightclubbing.” This rapid paced rendition of Pop’s classic is nothing like his original heroine paced version. Zombie Zombie seem to take that version, inject it with speed and hook it up to a row of car batteries. The track incorporates all of the vocal characteristics Neman has displayed on the album so far. He speaks the lyrics in his French accent, breaths heavily to the rhythm in between verses, and slowly escalates to frantic howling and screaming of the title by the end of the tune.
The album concludes with yet another exercise in vocalized terror, the track “When I scream you scream.” One could imagine that this song is based around a sing along concept, and probably goes over very well at their live shows. Thirty-five seconds after the song ends a secret track begins. It is the only completely electronic track on the entire album; no drums, and no vocals. In that respect it is very reminiscent of synthetic, new wave music from the 1980’s.
The bands retro-sonic feel is surprisingly refreshing in today’s overly recycled pop graveyard. At times even a complex instrument like the guitar can become stale and mundane if not approached properly. The eclectic music fan will truly appreciate all that Zombie Zombie has to offer, and depending on their taste will enjoy where they’re coming from creatively. The cross pollination of genre, themes, and expression makes Zombie Zombie an aural delight of frightening images.
Be sure to check out Peter O’Brien’s thrash metal documentary “Riphouse 151: Could’ve Been’s & Wanna Be’s” which is currently on the festival circuit.