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Zurkas Tepla
Occasion Smell Richard Foster , June 14th, 2019 10:48

Time spent in the company of Russian electro-prankster Zurkas Tepla is never boring, finds Richard Foster

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot if you apply it to the work of Russian electro prankster Zurkas Tepla. His choice of track titles has always intrigued me, aggressive and playful jottings hinting at some dark or surreal personal episode he has chosen to document. Sometimes they make me laugh out loud; ‘Burning house, salty river, take a shit, goodbye’ being one such earlier example. This new record follows suit with ditties known as ‘Dirt Digging Nose’. How can you not want to listen to it?

Listening to Tepla’s work can initially feel like being strapped in a very fast-moving vehicle, buffeted by the rush of the creative energy swirling about you. You may also flinch each time you experience the assault of various gradations of sonic scree thrown at you. It’s only later, maybe in retrospect, that you can piece together the structures that give form to the whole. Tracks like the enervating ‘Pets Conversation’ can work independently, being mini symphonies in their own right, but have key roles to play in passing the baton on, from and to markedly different pieces of music.

The opener on his latest release, ‘White hands washed eye black glass’ is typical of his work; a gargantuan series of cut-ups sewn together in a symphonic form. It’s music made with broad sweeps, an approach that, as a whole successfully sidesteps the academic considerations that can plague listening to this sort of music. Though the core restlessness of Tepla’s muse does remind me at times of Louis Andriessens’ 1970s deconstructions of Mozart, or Bernard Parmegiani’s Dedans-Dehors.

On the whole it’s fun to immerse yourself in Zurkas Tepla’s manic sound worlds. They seem to appeal to a wide range of fancies that have maybe laid dormant in your own mind. At times Occasion Smell sounds as if you are in an aviary where someone’s disturbed the parakeets, at others the weird, blips and sub-Coil pagan dreamscapes made by Queen Elizabeth back in the mid-nineties. Some other passages have a markedly kosmische feel, the angsty ‘Rehearsal of Repeat’ or coming on like Atem-era Tangerine Dream. It’s certainly never boring.