Some bands you keep coming back to because you know exactly what you’re going to get. And that’s great! Consistency is an important thing in life. But it’s important to keep a few bands in your rotation that can surprise you every single time, even if you’ve heard multiple albums by them at this point. Netherlands is one of those bands; you literally never know what these guys are going to do and if you think you do, you’re wrong. From the sludge/stoner/pop antics of Audubon through the chaotic and apocalyptic gurglings of Hope Porn and Black Gaia we have now landed ourselves at Zombie Techno and let me tell you Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. Sure, the stoner root of the Netherlands sound is still there, hovering menacingly in the corners of your ear, but the main battlefield has been left to electronic undulations, spacious arrangements, and a quasi-religious, science fiction vibe that paints a universe in deep, deep black.
OK, so how the hell do we even approach an album like this? It’s tempting to start in the beginning and, indeed, the opening, self-titled track on the album is a sort of mini-manifesto for the rest of the album. It has thick, electronic notes which bleed into the vocals, turning them vocoder-like at times. But it’s probably the next track, “CASUAL MONSTERS”, that offers a glimpse into the true meaning of the zombie techno. The pronounced, feedback laden riffs of the band’s past play a guest role on this track; they accentuate the chorus and its expansive, screamed vocals. But the verses are given over to a much sparser sound, as mainly drums, bass, and vocals occupy most of the mix. This spacious, “emptier” sound is the beating, blackened heart at the center of the album, driving it forward in its hazy psychedelia.
Like a system of winds, low pressure and high swimming together into one dynamic whole, Zombie Techno moves between the crushing sensation of the Netherlands riff and this new sparsity which the band have brought forth on this album. This is how you get tracks like “U.F.O D.U.I”, with its frenetic synths and scorching guitars, and “THIS TIME MY BROKEN HEART STAYS OPEN”, a space-rock, Pink Floyd/Motorpsycho tinged exploration of trippy atmospheres and warm bass tones. And that’s also how you get the closing track, the beatific “REQUIEM”, one of the more intriguing tracks that Netherlands have released to date. It displays that spaciousness, that sparsity, that undercuts the entire album in a unique like, vocals blinking in and out of extravagant existence to create the atmosphere of an austere, Gothic cathedral floating in dark, void-like space.
“An austere, Gothic cathedral floating in dark, void-like space” is probably how I’d describe this entire album, if you pressed me to write a one-line review of the album. It’s this unique, experimental sound that makes Zombie Techno one of Netherlands’ most intriguing releases to date and that’s saying something when we’re talking about such a far-flung, audacious band. They’ve shown us, once again, that in the unique areas in which they operate, no one really comes close in sheer irreverence and continued musical exploration. All hail the space cathedral! All hail the zombie techno!
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Zombie Techno was released on June 26th. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to grab it.