18 November 2020
EP Rating 4.5/5
Live Potential 5/5
Diversity in Songs 4/5
Favourite Songs Caves, OTPR
Zyggurat’s new EP is a magnificent project that combines jazz rhythms with ambient and progressive electronics. The Birmingham-based group return from 2018’s Beyond the Breaks with Earth II, an electronic odyssey through jazz and beyond.
Zyggurat are Pete Grimshaw (synths and production), Nathan Jones (drums and percussion) and Liam Halloran (vibraphone and electronics). Their perfect blend of jazz grooves running beneath crunching synths, throbbing bass and vibraphone flourishes creates Zyggurat’s authentic sound.
The album is described as being the soundtrack to a new planet:
"Earth II is a passage through imagined landscapes - awakening on a subsequent Earth - across abstract wilds to urban civilisation and beyond."
Each track matches this description perfectly. As well as being an outer-space venture, it feels like an exploration of urban expansions, deeply rooted in Birmingham’s "post-industrial terrains".
The trio’s listed influences include the ambient electronics of Luke Abbott and Floating Points. The colourisation of the EP certainly comes from its electronic navigations but it feels like jazz at its core.
‘Breathe’ opens the EP with a distorted synth that reminded me initially of Sun Ra’s reaches into outer space before it heads into a glorious modern jazz groove.
‘Caves’ was a standout favourite, with perfect crunching dialogues between synth and vibraphone, and with Nathan Jones’s grooving percussion underneath.
Liam Halloran’s vibraphone creates a trippy blend of electronic production and acoustic instrumentation (NB - the vibraphone is a great instrument). It works superbly in ‘Caves’ which provides the sonic imagery of a deep delve into unknown terrains.
‘Leta - Civilisation’ begins with a rippling piano and builds with the sparsely played drums and synth chimes. The rhythm of the piano line works so well throughout the track, acting as an anchor as the bass and synths work around it.
‘OTPR’ was my second favourite tune. The throbbing synths resonate throughout and its intro reminded me of the productions of Floating Points. The groove beneath kept it ticking along beautifully.
Earth II was another reminder of the live-music-shaped-hole in our lives. What Zyggurat could do with visuals and their instruments would be truly special.
Earth II is a wonderful EP from an exciting group. Zyggurat is a group to watch over the next few years. With this EP, they help remind us that jazz is a vast and limitless genre.
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