Zebra – North

Restored 18 April 2017, originally published 15 February 2016

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 expecting” 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.

And there is a really nice flow to the musical journey that is “North.” Opener “Afraid” comes on with strong electronic sounds and watery synth touches over a solid reggae beat. “Dwarfs“ follows with hints of a reggae lilt, but mixes in spacey, psychedelic sounds that move this track closer to a trip hop groove. The title track follows next and is built over a more abstract industrial beat that, about half way through, displays dub-influenced production.

“Papafakindo” starts as less as a song and more of an odd dream interlude, but then it slides into dubby architecture. “Subway” has layers of industrial rhythms that sound at least partially African-influenced, while cleverly mixing in more reggae and spacey electronic elements.

Next, “Butterflies” flows by with more industrial reggae, trip hop, electro, dance, and then back to a slower rhythm as it concludes. That may come across as disjointed, but in fact it rolls along comfortably. “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 little 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.

AET


Zebra “Papafakindo”:

Download site

Zebra on Facebook

Paproota.org Dub Netlabel

Paproota Soundcloud page

Albert E. Trapezoid Written by:

Albert E. Trapezoid lives in the North Carolina in the United States. He has been writing about music for several years at his own website (albertetrapezoid.com), which also features reviews of netlabel releases among other folderol. In the past he has dabbled in performance with a punk band, an experimental electronic group, and even drummed in a bagpipe band. He has also worked in radio and as a DJ in various clubs.

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