Sometimes it’s a good thing when your expectations are unmet. I went to the Paproota.org Dub Netlabel site looking to groove to some traditional reggae beats; instead, I encountered the cool electronic sounds of Zebra. After I got past my initial “this isn’t at all what I was anticipating” reaction, I quite enjoyed what I was hearing.
Zebra is a duo consisting of Natalia Norko and Zdzisław Orłowski, both of whom are based in Poland (as is Paproota). North presents a collection of tunes mixing electronics, dreamy female vocals, and varied musical style influences (including reggae, so ultimately I got some of what I came for!) to produce a stellar collection of songs.
There is a great flow to the musical journey that is North. Opener “Afraid” comes on with strong electronic sounds while a watery synth touches over a solid reggae beat. “Dwarfs“ follows with hints of a reggae lilt, and mixes in spacey, psychedelic sounds that move this track closer to a trip hop groove. The title track follows next and is built over an abstract industrial beat that, about half way through, displays some dub influences.
“Papafakindo” is an interlude that starts less as a song and more of an odd dream, but then slides into dubby architecture. “Subway” has layers of industrial rhythms that sound at least partially African-influenced, but cleverly also mixes in reggae and spacey, electronic elements.
Next, “Butterflies” flows by with more industrial reggae, trip hop, electro, dance, and back to a slower rhythm as it concludes. That may seem disjointed, but, in fact, it comfortably rolls along. “Double” features a bit of what may be a sliced-and-diced opera voice sample mixed with a more pronounced, underlying reggae beat. It’s entrancing, like the sirens calling across a tropical sea.
While it easily still fits this album, closer “Tobe” is a bit of a departure, featuring a strong new wave dance influence that would fit right at home on an early 1980s electronic dance music compilation.
Overall, this is a fantastic collection of music. Do not miss this unexpected trip North with Zebra.
Zebra – “Papafakindo”
Zebra – “Double”