"O'Ye Sleepers of Beulah Land of Shades" EP
"... A touch of spirit and some creativity will save lives in this mechanistic and materialistic world...". These words arisen from a casual chat with Pete Europa - singer, songwriter and movie director, formerly enrolled in the indie band The PinUps - co-founder of Helsinki's experimental band Neu Zaum, along with the guitarist Antti Lautala - ex-member of the legendary goth act Varjo and currently involved with the post-punk trio Silent Scream aside - may well summarise the thought upon which their new 6-track album is founded. I can say for sure but "O'Ye Sleepers of Beulah Land of Shades" EP likely takes its title from a verse of William Blake's prophetic book "Jerusalem - The Emanation of the Giant Albion". As with that poem, this record ultimately gives you the sense of having experienced first-hand a visionary film/theatre play. Thrills follow one another like in a sort of emotional carousel, ranging from dreamy, widescreen dramas to fateful, mini-uzi bursts whereby some late '70s and early '80s greats are conjured up with no loss of character. Furthermore, the artistic affiliations of Neu Zaum to Berlin cabaret and other avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, somehow permeate the sound so that it becomes inventive and nuanced enough to shrug categories off. With one foot firmly rooted in goth and the other circling glam and indie, each musician projects its own distinct personality to the mix and one easily realizes it throughout the listening. Thus, in addition to Pete's passionate, histrionic vocal delivery and Antti's patented riffs and vibratos, Neu Zaum also benefit from Jukka Laine's precise, propulsive drum beats, Juha Juntunen's chilling, gloom-soaked bass lines (check out his other band The Flatfield), and Risto Juntunen's crucial pad ambiances. The alchemy among all the above works great, resulting in crafted, unconventional, filled songs through which the Finnish reconnect us with the golden age of underground music. Immediately when the first track is launched off one is caught by an exciting filmic feel that will remain present up to the end. "Albion" is an accurate sonic embodiment of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, grounded on foreboding machinery-like thuds, abrasive riffs decomposing into radioactive hum and half bluesy, half operatic praises through which the shrieking vocal duo commit their souls to the Sun. Call me crazy but this is what came to my mind at some point: a tracking camera shot zooming out on Iggy Pop and Cindy Lauper dressed in rags on the top of a high dune while singing with delirious elation under the effects of a nuclear heat stroke. Nonetheless, it's a damn good trip. "Burning Shadows" radically shifts the mood, entering at a steady, relentless pace with a groovy '80s sheen. It's hard to smother the dancing urge caused by the addictive rhythmical section and the lush, cascading rings of revered guitar with old-school allure. This track sounds to me as if Neu Zaum were performing a collaborative hit written by The Dance Society and The Echo & The Bunnymen during their best epoque. With "Cold Sun" the pace slows down and one can easily perceive the influence of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy. Its catchy sing-along refrains, both shimmery and jagged chords and swirling keyboards flow together into an illusive, rhapsodic tune, within which beauty goes hand in hand with exhaustion. "Dark City" slowly builds up to an awesome goth climax, driven by an eerie central blend of bouncing bass and martial drums. Antti soloes his way up the neck of the guitar to provide an angst-inducing counterpoint, making the strings scream in a chorus of despair and paranoia with Pete, being the whole thing set in a bleak contrast with the fleeting, murky piano tones. Ace dark music, and the same would apply to "Panic Attack", while this one is much more aggressive, icy and visceral, like directly emerged from the punk fallout by means of dizzying tempo changes, somber guitar crescendos and anguished growls and warcrys - the versatility of this vocalist is far beyond doubt. For my mind, this track has a cool cross-over appeal with some recalls of Bauhaus, early Killing Joke and Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" era. However, the best is kept till last. "Sunrise That Never Comes" immerses us into a fascinating, iridescent, almost womblike reverie drawing from cold, sparkling guitars, soft cadences and ghostly synth chants that rip through a consuming nostalgia. The atmosphere gradually spirals around affected, skilfully narrative vocals, ending all up in a spherical grand finale, both charming and dreary, which perfectly rounds off this allegorical, cathartic 6-act play about the end of the world. Tu put it simply: a fine-tuned, sheer art rock spirit filler.
Review by Billyphobia