The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Zamilska
Uncovered Bob Cluness , August 6th, 2019 07:23

Polish industrial artist Zamilska returns with her third album – and it's her best yet, finds Bob Cluness

The gradual, inexorable development of Natalia Zamilska’s music from the release of her debut album Untune in 2014 has been one of the more gratifying things to observe recently from the Polish electronic scene. I remember buying the album on a whim at the time, and was immediately taken in by her techno-not-techno mix of brittle, kinetic beats and swirling, jarring noise that definitely had the feel of being ‘industrial’ but wasn’t bogged by needless sludgy distortion or gurning histrionics.

Following this with 2016’s Undone, in which Zamsilska fine-tuned her production skills and buffed up her beats to a crisp clean, minimal finish, we now have Uncovered, the third in this triptych of buzzing electronic music that combines the fine tuning of Undone with the raw and filthy sounds not only of her debut Untune but also further back into some of earliest music inspirations of punk, metal and hardcore.

With Uncovered, Zamilska is cutting a path through a busy and active industrial techno landscape. You have the gnashing, caustic abrasiveness of the ‘Brexit Techno’ from the Perc Trax stable, while in Europe there is the cyberpunk brutality of I Hate Models and the gothic EBM melodrama of Ancient Methods, as they sit atop a sullen mountain of chin-stroking techno NPC clones that drench 4/4 kicks in wash of diffused greyscale noise. While Zamilska’s music touches some of the bases that are the hallmarks of the artists above, her music doesn’t truly belong to any of these camps. For sure, Zamilska can surely lay claim to knowledge of a world of man-made noise and bone shattering rumbles, having been brought up in Silesia, the heartland of heavy industry for Poland. But there is much more going on in Uncovered than the unleashing of sheer dissonant energy.

For starters there is a wider palate of samples and voices going on under the surface, that are deployed and arranged with a deftly subtle hand. Granted, tracks like ‘HOSPITAL’, ‘HOLLOW’, and ‘BLIND’ are very much the archetype of ‘industrial’ techno, complete with lumbering, depressed kicks that march incessantly, metallic static, and the sensation of steel scraping against steel, while ‘FRONT’ is a pared back vista of rhythmic noise with wistful vocals. But even when going full throttle, the intention is not so much to smash or overwhelm you in a bombardment of noise, rather to create a sense of suspension, to hold you within a moment of tension between outright silence and cavernous booms.

These growling sub bass excursions are balanced out with colourful short bursts such as ‘DELUSION’ and ‘BACK’ whose folktronica leanings, samples of mystic chants and chiming bells are taken further on ‘DOLLS’ where Arabic strings on a circular riff cascade into a realm of Jericho trumpet blares and looming drones. Meanwhile the dry, austere sonics of ‘PRISONER’ has a sludgy dubstep-like wobble circa Croydon 2006 that drags itself across the floor, collecting syncopated half-step rattles and electrical rasps in its wake.

Uncovered also inches into new territory for Zamilska in the way she is now utilising and manipulating her own vocals. On several tracks, her affectless, staccato delivery ekes out short streams of paranoid linguistic data that provides an undercurrent of enmity. It is here where Zamilska’s music shows a natural affinity with fellow electronic musician Gazelle Twin (both artists have remixed each other’s work in the past), not only in the way each created distorted forms of lyrics as word-association, but also in the way they use and abuse vocal sounds both as a rhythmic tool and as a close miked engine of cold sensuality.

Zamilska’s vocals highlight how, as an album, Uncovered is her most accomplished effort, showing an intense level of restraint that harnesses the dim energies of industrial waste and the clatter of modern noise into a form that holds it in a suspended state of throbbing, glinting murkiness. This is definitely Zamilska’s best work to date and anyone interested in hearing expressions of powerful, yet poised, beats and sounds should start investigating her music ASAP.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.