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Monday, October 27, 2014

Zero Degree - "Stasis"

Artist: Zero Degree
Album: Stasis
Year: 2014
Label: Ant Zen
Genre: Downtempo, IDM
Website: www.ant-zen.com

After 3 years, downtempo IDM act Zero Degree returns with the new album Stasis. I was a fan of their first album with Ant Zen which was Probe, and I can't believe it's already been 4 years since that was released. Anyhow, Zero Degree hasn't strayed too much from the path set upon with that album; instead Stasis sees them refining their established sound.

For those unfamiliar with Zero Degree, they write highly atmospheric & hypnotic rhythmic downtempo soundscapes with something of a tribal vibe. Most of the songs are quite long and repetitive, but this is done in way which effectively hypnotizes and captivates the listener.  Stasis opens with "Cocoon" which is immediately recognizable as a Zero Degree track. As I said, not too different from previous work, but a solid continuation thereof. The first thing I notice is that the production is clearer and bigger - everything is clean and spacious which is perfect for this kind of subdued music. Although this track is longer that necessary, I quite enjoy it. The title track is next and this one carries a psytrance sounding bassline with beautiful plucky melodies that swirl around the steady kick drum and rolling hats. Although their tracks are long - this is the shortest one at just over 7 minutes - they do a good job of consistently adding in new elements & moods at intervals to keep the listener engaged. "Beacon" continues on with the somewhat psybient vibe, and this one has little bits, such as the chopped vocals, that remind me of Bluetech. "Distance", further pursuing this mood, also utilizes a great flute-ish pad which really bolsters the ethno vibe; this coupled with their standard plucky delayed melody makes for a very deep and engaging piece. "Parsec", perhaps due in part to the name, gives me a rather retro space faring vibe and I love the beep-y melodies and progression of the song. The only thing I didn't like was the voice sample in the middle where everything drops out and this garbled voice goes on an indistinguishable monologue for too long. The album ends with the 14 minute track "Tides of Time". This one makes me feel like I'm looking at the stars illuminated in night sky above a desert. It's got an interesting juxtaposition of cosmic spatial awareness and terrestrial, tribal energy currents.

As I said with their previous release, this is not a record that I would expect Ant Zen to put out. There is no distortion, crunch or experimental weirdness. Instead, Zero Degree provide excellent hypnotic landscapes for fans of tribal, psybient, and deep techno music. While it doesn't have the technical prowess of acts like Bluetech, E-mantra, or Aes Dana, there is much enjoyment to be found in their more minimal approach. Not the best for active listening, but definitely a great record to put on in the background for conjuring mystical & desert moods. Overall, I quite enjoyed this record and fans of their previous output will certainly appreciate it as well.

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