Zèbra: The Black & White Album
Symbolic Interaction

Zèbra's The Black & White Album is somewhat of a mongrel recording that's now found a home at Symbolic Interaction (by Roel Meelkop and Frans de Waard's own admission, the recording “went around the world and wasn't touched easily, [having been] dismissed as being too funny (which isn't our intention), or dismissed as too weird, or simply dismissed…”). The first indication of the recording's mischievous character is the cover design which pairs the “achromatic” album title with a red-orange and blue-green colour scheme (plus a soiled yellow-green on the disc itself). A slew of scientific graphs accompanied by predictably mystifying texts are displayed within (sample: “Zèbra of the noto-book of the counterfoil are onven-toed ungulates of domestic musiquidiue family in Easter music, southernmost and southwest Africa …”), as are seven 12'47” track durations that are all misrepresentative of the actual times. The fifty-one-minute disc itself is a plunderphonic collage of techno and disco rhythms, machine noise splatter, and media samples that probably shouldn't be taken too seriously or lightly either.

The music itself wends a varying route through seven connected sections. “Dream Music for Diamand Redheads” makes a tentative nod in the direction of Romantic beauty before morphing into a marching slab of upright techno and a looped voice sample. Machine techno cuts like “Music During 500 Layback Hi-Fi Rezor” and “The Mesa Music Comotion Starfish” grow psychedelic and vertiginous when their loops repeat so relentlessly. Veritable catnip for copyright lawyers, “Last Night A DJ Saves My File” drags Indeep's 1982 classic “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” through the digital shredder, banishing its bass line to parts unknown and sprinkling it with telephone rings and assorted other interjections. “The Blade Music Piramyds” starts out as a long-form foray into glitch ambient that recalls Terre Thaemlitz's experimental work from years past before swelling halfway through into a pummeling mass that quietens into a brooding strings-and-piano episode that again rises, this time to a cacophonous climax. At disc's end, “Dusty Riveval Music” takes the listener out on a light-hearted gallop across the Western plains. In sum, The Black & White Album could be described as an exercise in bricolage-styled tomfoolery (or, as Zèbra itself calls it, “meltpop”) of the kind one might have heard coming out of the Mille Plateaux and Ritornell camps during their glory days.

October 2008