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  • Filed under: Review
  • 03/06/2013

Zenker Brothers Lion in Mars

It's not as if the sounds favored by the Zenker Brothers are unique, but they do assert a sense of sound design the Frankfurt-based producers can own using an almost generic, dark sound palette. Their recent podcast of original material for Resident Advisor included some as-yet-unreleased tracks—a well-timed marketing move for new four-tracker Lion in Mars, whose songs prove just as involving when broken out of the mix.

"Knighthof" comes out of the gate with a cavernous drum fill and a taut, one-note bassline that paints a mental picture of massing space battalions preparing for conflict. The shuffling, deep-space atmosphere is redolent of both the Prologue label and dub techno, if dub techno opted for stimulants rather than depressants. "The Future Is You" fleshes out the tense a-side; a smudged, unidentifiable sample trundles by in the background like an overloaded freight train as a slightly syncopated beat builds, spitting out dubby, choked synth blurts like a mirage of human warmth.

"Davin" opens the flip with a bit more narrative arc than what preceded it, gradually teasing out a basic melody from an unending stream of claps and hyperventilating hi-hats. Careful to leave things more implied than explicit, the melody and bassline create a song-within-a-song effect, as if another track is communicating with the present one over a vast distance—a universe glimpsed edge-on in a Hubble telescope photo. "Cosmilian" kicks up a dusty whirl of samples reduced to inky dust clouds over a hiccuping, wooden percussion loop that locks into itself with the implacable mechanical logic and vestigial soulfulness of Robert Hood. While Zenker Brothers tracks aren't hard to put one's finger on—reverb-friendly minimal techno or sped-up dub techno seem like accurate, if flippant descriptions—Lion in Mars shows they have enough ideas to keep even well-worn sounds fresh.

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