- Zvrra creates a dark, paranoid space where techno and ambient meet.
- Zvrra's background as a video game developer might seem like an irrelevant detail when it comes to making techno, but on a record like Bizarroland, it's hard not to hear the influence. Specifically, I'm thinking of video games like Silent Hill and their still-terrifying soundtracks by Akira Yamaoka: arcane electronic music that split the difference between dark ambient, early industrial and something resembling techno. You could use all those descriptors for Bizarroland, her debut on Avian. It's strikingly avant-garde for Shifted's often functional label. Over 34 intense and often abstract minutes, the American producer shows off a knack for eerie mood-setting and rich ambient immersion along with limping, off-kilter rhythms.
When Bizarroland zeroes in on techno, it's cavernous and enveloping, almost as if the rhythm was an afterthought. "Inside" sounds like a Luke Slater track submerged in water, while "Society" has the acoustics of a subway tunnel, as Zvrra fleshes out the soundscape with a creepy synth melody and what sounds like tolling bells. "Bizarroland II" has a slow, zombie-like stagger, the stuff of suspenseful scenes in horror movies. Everything is clothed in a dark and metallic color palette, not the all-black-everything of European techno but something colder and even less human.
For all the clever rhythmic interplay in those tracks, the most goosebump-inducing moments on Bizarroland skew ambient. It's hard to describe "Figurine" using any other word than "evil," with its detuned chimes and pulsating drone. But then it's outdone by "Oracle," whose persistent banging is a Throbbing Gristle nightmare. This is a rhythmic, ominous kind of dark ambient, designed to bring the temperature of the room down to freezing, to suck out the vibes instead of just providing a comfortable soundtrack.
The LP wheezes to a close with a series of ambient cuts, culminating in "Tired Beetle," whose slowly unfurling melody is badgered by strange rattling sounds. These same noises come to the fore on the closer "Untitled," which sounds like a techno track made by someone with a hammer and an iron rod, approximating those horrifying, boiler-room-banging sounds used so memorably on video games like Silent Hill.
On Bizarroland, Zvrra enters a new realm where techno becomes static and ambient induces feelings of panic, fright and wonder. It's a visceral record that feels loudest at its quietest, turning our expectations upside down and inside out. Across her sizeable discography, Zvrra has tackled big-room techno, footwork and lots of things in between, but on Bizarroland she thrives in a new, negative space all her own.
03. Bizzaroland II
08. Tired Beetle