Review: Zebularin – Semantic Radiation (Cruel Nature Recordings, Jan 29)

In a way, the bizarre shape and texture distortions featured on the cover of Zebularin’s new tape Semantic Radiation are not just appropriately subversive visuals that correspond to equally subversive music, but also a statement about the band itself. A fragment of the back of someone’s head cut to resemble the head of some draconian acolyte (Kobolds, anyone?), a dark photograph of someone curled up in bed that has been mounted in such a way that its own spatial logic no longer makes any sense, the sky of a landscape panorama unravels and twists impossibly toward something even higher—it all reeks of the same approach the Stuttgart collective takes to produce their music: stretching, cutting, and dissecting the conventional in favor of the new and unpredictable, stuffing large clumps of strangeness where they most certainly do not fit. It’s as if the listener is shown the tangled mass fibrous wires that hold together the group’s most “normal” instrumental elements (drum kit, woodwinds, Rhodes), allowed to witness the surges of sonic electricity as they move throughout the network in the form of line-in electronics, industrial clatter, and other scientific tabletop conjurations from Yoshihiro Kikuchi and bandleader/composer Daniel Vujanic. “Supplikant” and “Vaccimal” focus almost entirely on these in-between sounds, unfurling into beautiful, buzzing storms of electricity and emotional catharsis, while longer tracks like “Jubelperser” and “Flores” drag the lens much further back, capturing spacious, diverse, room-filling interactions that echo the best of early improvisatory units (even though Zebularin’s material is not improvised). Perhaps the titular concept is literal, and these volatile, enigmatic pieces are the toxic residue left behind when one spends too much time thinking about what music means. No idea why anyone would want to do that in the first place, though… some nerd shit for sure.

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