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SURFACE TO AIR

Zombi

Progressive Electronic


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Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the kind of progressive electronic music a rocker can get behind-- engagingly powerful, fast- paced, and a little angry. Best of all, it's rock. A.E. Paterra is one of the best unknown drummers around and shows a marked Neil Peart influence, emulating Mr. Peart beautifully. His musical partner Steve Moore handles bass and a wave of lucious-sounding synths. The music takes from Prog as much as it does from Film and Electronic and the balance is quite successful, reminding often not only of Rush but of artists such as filmmaker/composer John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, U.K. and even Keith Emerson at his synth-ier moments.

'Challenger Deep' is a good opener but the pace solidifies on the second, 'Digitalis', a Carpenter-esque thematic that suggests any number of alien invasions, body replications and robotic takeovers. Simple rhythms with ever-modulating melodies and counterpoint support this track as it leads us to 'Legacy', a very kinetic, very well-played and very Prog number. Rush's influence is deeply felt here and this cut could have been something from the 'Moving Pictures' sessions, though these two players don't need anyone else to express themselves, not even a guitarist. The title track 'Surface To Air' grabs us by the throat and doesn't let go for almost eight minutes of candy symphonics, awesome angularity and vibrating walls of Korg sounds. Very nice indeed, and none of it artificial sounding or over-produced, always maintaining an edge and organic feel. The epic 'Night Rhythms' - clocking in at over 18 minutes and filled with mellotron sounds and soaring washes of keys - closes things out with more great playing and Saturday matinee charm. Dark at times but with sci-fi excitement and a craving for a future long overdue, Zombi really fit the electronic prog bill, proving you can do synth-driven soundscapes and still rock.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#124579)
Posted Sunday, June 03, 2007 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This had a lot of potential...

I find progressive electronic music to be the most boring type of music on this site. It rarely captures my interest because of it's lack of melody, energy, and rhythm. So after hearing some samples of American progressive electronic band Zombi I was really intrigued. It sounded energetic and interesting, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I was impressed by many of the songs, but I found the 18-minute closing track to be boring. While that never changed, some of the other tracks began to tire as well. However, I still do enjoy the entire album except for the 18-minute closing track. If that song had been replaced by some really strong material this album would have been worth at least a four.

Anyway, if I had to recommend a progressive electronic album to any rocker like myself, this would be it. The Neil Peart-like drumming is excellent, and I love the synths on this album. I don't typically enjoy all instrumental music, but I do enjoy Surface To Air. If it wasn't for that last song I would have given this a much higher rating.

THE MUSIC:

"Challenger Deep"- The first song starts with a synth chord progression with some cool drum rolls. When the bass and drums come into full force you realize that this isn't a typical band in the genre. This song has some great grooves, and it's a solid opener.

"Digitalis"- This starts with an analog-sounding synth and a drum beat going along with it. Around 2 minutes in the riff changes, and it is followed by excellent mellotron. This is another great song!

"Legacy"- This is the reason why I bought this album. I heard it and I was immediately intrigued. This is my favorite song off of the album, and everything is perfect in my opinion. The energetic riff, the excellent drumming, and the way the song builds off of one riff. This has great mellotron use and synth lines. This is by far the best off of the album. If the entire album were like this I swear it would have been a five star album.

"Surface To Air"- The main melody is dark and energetic, and I really like the drumming. It has a nice break in the middle that sounds very Pink Floyd-ish. This is another really good song.

"Night Rhythms"- This is my one and only problem with this entire album. This song is a bore to be honest, and it has most of what I don't like about progressive electronic music in it. It has some really cool moments, but it didn't have the material to be almost 19 minutes in length. This is a disappointment.

Conclusion:

Surface To Air is a good album that I really enjoy. The closing track is not good, but the rest of the album is great. That's why this album is so frustrating! It could have been so great, but sadly it doesn't live up to its full potential. I'm on the fence between a 3 and a 4 star rating for this album. It is really good, and I recommend this to any prog rock fan. Since it is not essential, and almost 20 minutes of the album isn't that good I'll give it a 3. But this is a very high 3 star rating that I recommend to anyone looking for energetic, synth-driven prog rock.

3 stars.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#252526)
Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Surface to Air is an album full of heavy Goblin, Tangerine Dream, and Rush influences. Zombi plays a very energetic and aggressive kind of progressive electronic, similar to Cyclone and Force Majeure era Tangerine Dream except a bit on the heavier side. If there ever were a progressive electronic duo to appeal to fans of symphonic progressive rock, Zombi is that band. Something about this album that is hard to ignore is the '70s horror-thriller film soundtrack sound that Zombi seems to pull off so well - this whole album (especially the track "Digitalis" could very well be a Goblin soundtrack for a film by the great Dario Argento. But, this is all original work.

This album does have its beautiful moments, though. A lot of "Night Rhythms" is cold, airy, windy, with serene synthesizers and Genesis' "Watcher of the Skies"-esque mellotron use, all of which work together to create a strong atmosphere that could suggest standing atop a snowy mountain and gazing above the stark, white landscape. This track is an 18+ minute epic, packed with both serenity and aggressive/explosive energy.

Aside from the electronics portion of the Zombi's sound, the bass and drums are equally important. The bass is very heavy with a Chris Squire/Geddy Lee influence and usually creates a great center-point for rock musicians to focus on. The drums are also very powerful, fast, and full of forceful energy as they quickly bat their way through the soundscapes. I usually don't care much for drum kit usage in my prog electronic, but I think it works very well here.

Highly recommended to fans of Force Majeure-era Tangerine Dream and Phenomena-era Goblin.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#442620)
Posted Wednesday, May 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Surface To Air' - Zombi (6/10)

For me, the music of Zombi has been both an enjoyable experience, as well as an underwhelming one. While the electronic music duo has always shown great signs of promise, their albums never seem to reach that expectation I have for them, although each album does seem to improve upon the former. 'Surface To Air' is Zombi's second album, and it is quite clear that they have learned a thing or two since the release of their somewhat lackluster debut 'Cosmos', most notably in the songwriting department. Although there are still large spaces I think could have been greatly improved upon, Zombi's second album is a step in the right direction for their brand of atmospheric music.

Much like 'Cosmos', there are shorter tracks here amidst longer ones. While the long pieces here are still drawn out and feel somewhat aimless at times, Zombi has really tightened up their more concise songwriting, with the first two tracks 'Challenger' and 'Digitalis' both being under five minutes, and both being fairly successful tracks. When it comes to the actual sounds that Zombi chooses to represent their compositions with, almost nothing has changed from the debut. Their sound heavily relies on synthesizer textures, and numerous spacial effects. Taking a greater role this time around are also the live instruments, which are comprised of bass and drums. It is in the live instruments can really hear the obvious influence Rush has on this duo, with many of the drum sections sounding like something right out of the Neil Peart textbook.

While the shorter songs have been improved upon, it still feels like Zombi is at their best when they go for the longer compositions. The final track 'Night Rhythms' is a fine example of this. While still feeling somewhat aimless in sections, the fact that Zombi has so much room to detail and work with their sound lets them create some very effective buildups and harmonies with the synths. Quite clearly, Zombi is a band that does not work well when they have a defined song structure to adhere to, and instead are in their greatest element when left to explore. All the same, the lack of ideas and generally very long time it takes for these ideas to develop is not always worth the payoff at the end of a segment, making 'Surface To Air' a much less effective album than it could have been.

Regardless, 'Surface To Air' is a good album from this duo, and the first chronological album that I find valid enough to return to for repeated listens.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#463032)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Miles away from the minimalistic ambient material which usually gets classed as progressive electronic, Zombi's music - evoked by the team of Moore and Paterra - exists in the boundary between electronic music and space rock, with Hawkwind and Heldon-esque grooves mixing in with plentiful mellotron and synthesiser textures to create an extremely modern and intriguing sound. Imagine what might happen if Richard Pinhas decides to craft an electronic trip which sounds like a rock band freakout and you might get close to the Zombi sound, and Surface to Air is a great place to encounter it. Worth exploring for all fans of space rock and energetic electronic rock.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#703040)
Posted Sunday, April 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The US answer to Tangerine Dream?

This band seems to embrace some of TD's approach. Unfortunately, not of TD's better moments are being paid tribute to here. Short of the disastrous Jerome Froese Techno approach, Zombi are seemingly hooked on reproducing the urban psychosis that TD used as filler material only. This band seems to be hooked on some least memorable moments of that legendary German outfit whose material is at least 80% boring and rather uneventful.

Now, don't get me wrong, this album is largely enjoyable, but that doesn't mean that it's great in any sense. The addition of bass helps a bit, but not enough to lift the game as such. The tunes are not bad at all, but somehow remain undeveloped and largely unexciting, lacking conviction..

Track 1 and 5 are excellent in comparison, but these guys weren't born behind the Berlin Wall - like TD to have that real urge of wanting to reach out to the Universe whilst being surrounded by hostile forces.

A 3 star rating is appropriate here, perhaps 3.5 and one can't expect to have that emotional content, - one like myself who was born behind the Iron Curtain - to understand to any extent.

A reasonable effort by people who have had relatively little understanding to emotional content in musical expressions - due to lack of life experiences. I sincerely hope that in future they'll mature as they seem to have the the talent. And yes, the name ZOMBIE fails to please to any extent. Time to grow up?

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#956077)
Posted Thursday, May 09, 2013 | Review Permalink
progaeopteryx
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Pittsburgh-based Zombi is the duo of Steve Moore on bass and keys and Anthony Paterra on drums and percussion. Although labeled as progressive electronic on this site, their sound to me is an even mix of space rock and symphonic prog, featuring spacey keyboard riffs and lush soundscapes lying atop a rhythm section comparable to Rush's Lee/Peart combo. Some have compared this to a mix of Tangerine Dream or Heldon with Rush. Another possible description might be a guitar-less instrumental version of Argentinian proggers Nexus with Geddy Lee making appearances here and there. The keyboard work isn't in the same league as a Rick Wakeman or Tony Banks, but it's remarkably melodic and spacey (and better than any solo album either of them have ever released). I can't think of many albums that invoke astronomical imagery in my head better than this one. An incredibly enjoyable listen! Easily one of my best purchases in the last few years and well deserving of masterpiece status.

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Send comments to progaeopteryx (BETA) | Report this review (#1100964)
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zombi's second full length album, "Surface To Air" is probably the most impressive work that the band will ever release. Drums, bass, & keyboards will creating a driving force inside your brain! I've been a huge fan of Zombi's music since about 2007, and since then I have bought and listened to just about everything they released, including solo and other projects of the two members of Zombi, Steve Moore & Anthony Patera.

This album offers up a mixture between the soundtracks of Goblin & John Carpenter, along with strong influence from Rush and Tangerine Dream. The bass and drum playing on this album are superb, and you can tell that the members of Zombi are hugely influenced by their personal taste in music.

Zombi works in driving and expanding rhythms, always building up to something grandiose. Some of the songs are more rock oriented, while still maintaining the dependency on sequenced synth lines, but once all the elements fall into place, you can't escape the magic of Zombi's rhythm. And that's what makes this album so fantastic; the driving rhythms keep you engaged, while also allowing you to drift into another place. Their first album "Cosmos" lacked these driving rhythms, and it suffers to some extent because of it.

Each song on this album offers up a treat:

-Challenger Deep is relentless and perhaps the most Goblin sounding song on the album. The bass is super reminiscent of Pignatelli's bass playing in Goblin. On top of that, the synth work is also very Goblin. The drums in this song serve as more of a backbone, with some very nice Neil Peart style drum fills.

-Digitalis bursts out of the gate with an amazing sequenced synth loop, while Patera is slowing building up his metronomic drumming, just waiting to run free beside the sequencer and swirling ambient synth. Slowly, this song becomes a symphony between the drumming and keyboards. It's quite nice.

-Legacy is a track that allows Steve to plays some out of this world bass lines. The song starts with a short and simple keyboard sequence that allows for the bass and drumming to build tension, until is finally breaks free. Along with Challenger Deep, this song would contend for most Goblin influence. The thing about Legacy is, this song reaches soaring heights of pure awesomeness that Goblin rarely ever reached at their best, and this is coming from a huge Goblin fan! This song is the perfect example of Zombi's sound.

-Surface To Air is arguably the best song that Zombi ever made. I know more than a couple people who think so. This song, like Digitalis, bursts out of the gate at full speed. This song features some John Carpenter sounding synth work, but jammed into a rocking song that only lets up in order to blow your mind again.

-Night Rhythms is probably my personal favorite when it comes to this album, and it is probably my favorite thing that Zombi has or ever will do. The song starts with swelling pad synth that sounds reminiscent to a late 70s Vangelis album. Then things take a dark turn when the keyboards start to build a ominous tension and Patera builds a driving tribal drum experience. The song makes you believe it's about to explode, but it only teases you before going into a section of the song that allows anyone familiar with Tangerine Dream to hear the major influence on these musicians. Again, they start to build with sequencers and drumming, when all of the sudden the bass comes slamming in adding a new dynamic as it builds to a dizzying battle between the drumming and driving bass line. We are then again led into a passage that reminds strongly of Pheadra era Tangerine Dream. And once again, the guys start building off of the sequencer until they are pounding into your head during the final moments of the song.

I truly believe this is a masterpiece of music, and that is why I am awarding this album 5 stars. If any Zombi album deserves that honor, Surface To Air is most definitely it.

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Send comments to Shadowavenger (BETA) | Report this review (#1154757)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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