In a year of near post-apocalyptic proportions, which includes a lockdown-level pandemic, protests worldwide against police brutality, a near authoritarian regime in the US that’s doing nothing to bring us together, music is something I’m finding much solace in. Back in April or May one of my favorite artists announced a new LP, their first since 2015. The prog/synth duo Zombi laid some major good news on us all that they were dropping a new album in July, and that album is 2020.
Well kiddos July is here, and with it remains the pandemic, continued protests, and no help from the powers that be. But that also means 2020 is here, and man it arrived just in time.
With 2020, Steve Moore and AE Paterra have made the leanest Zombi record yet. Gone are the 10-minute prog jams and album side space dirges. What we have instead are more songs, more vibes, and an air of urgency. Guitar is more present than ever before, giving 2020 a wider scope of sound and mood.
The first song that hits us is the propulsive “Breakthrough & Conquer”, a blast of 80s rock/synth vibes. There’s some tasteful lead playing by Trans Am’s Phil Manley that pushes the track even further into the neon decade. I listen to this track and I think Top Gun. It’s total 80s action film music. I imagine this in some action movie from Cannon Films, but then we go right into “Earthscraper” which is probably one of the heaviest Zombi tracks yet. Moore really digs into the guitar/synth groove, creating a sort of prog metal space crunch. But then “No Damage” comes rolling in and all bets are off. Guitar plays prominently once again, this time with a heavy dose of doom. This is a dark and brooding Zombi song.
Of course we still get some of that amazing Zombi synth magic. “XYZT” brings some Surface To Air vibes in, giving us that synth/drum mathematical groove. I know there’s been guitar on past Zombi records, but it just seems to stand out more on 2020. In a good way, of course. “Mountain Ranges” is epic in scope with some amazing AE Paterra percussion and epic synth work. Classic prog vibes here.
Though Paterra remains in Pittsburgh while Moore calls Albany, New York home there is no disconnect here. It’s a seamless coming together of synth, bass, guitar, and drums. Steve Moore and AE Paterra are prolific artists both together and on their own, so both are well adept at engineering masterfully. This makes distance collaborating a breeze in the world of Zombi.
“First Flower” is heavy in mood and groove, showing Moore and Paterra leaning heavily into some interlocking riffs. “Thoughtforms” closes our 2020 journey out. It’s a slow synth-heavy groove with more tasteful guitar layered on top. It puts me in mind of mid-80s Michael Mann film scores. It also puts me in mind of AE Paterra’s Majeure project. In-particular, Mass Flashback from last year.
2020 is a tight and heavy collection of Zombi songs that nod to the times we live in. Urgent, precise, and quick to take us to a very specific sonic world. A world where things may be turned upside down, but Zombi are here to help make sense of it.
8.6 out of 10
Zombi’s 2020 is out Friday July 17th. Preorder it here.