You may already know ZRN as formerly being titled “Zeroine”, an offshoot of local Tales Of Murder And Dust, lead by partners Ess Beck and Christian Sinding Søndergaard. You may already know they have a couple of releases under their belt under their former name and that they’ve done a handful of shows around. ZRN, however, marks a big change though, with their name change and new EP out today: Swim.
Swim is evidently the first in a series of EPs to be coming from ZRN. It’s a staggeringly dark and atmospheric offering from whom this writer deems – is an extremely interesting Aarhus group. Where the Zeroine recordings were sort of trials, or training wheels for them dealing in “Low-Core”, ambient psych and touches of shoegaze, Swim is a sweeping and vast bold step further into the valleys of “art rock” or maybe just plain “ART”.
This is definitely a record that is meant to hang together. It’s meant to be taken in as one piece – almost as a classical suite or an acid jazz album. The opener, “Across” (clocking in over 12:00) has elements of ambient (Eno’s “music for…” series) lo-fi art rock (think: Swans or early Sonic Youth) and swathes of cold wave (Soft Moon). These themes continue through crescendos and decrescendos, waves and troughs alike. “Deep End” (I venture to say the most ‘up beat’ piece here) owes even more to classic art-rock and even puts one in mind to some of Mazzy Star’s heavier journeys down the psychedelic road. We’re beginning to hear distant drums – unobtrusive yet still present, as we drift into “Diving Off”. “Diving Off” is a track that upon first listen – seems very simple – yet the more you listen to it – it’s layers are revealed. Distortion played like a sting section – discordant symphonic passages – chugging acoustic guitar – fragile and damaged vocals – at first arriving like “Marble Index” era Nico – then hauntingly descending into ethereal and hauntingly chilling echoes. “Diving Off” absolutely gave me chills when I finally realized everything that was happening and how incredibly complex it is. You have to hear this shit to believe it.
The record closes with a couplet of numbers – “Slow Affection” – with its chanting and fuzzed out bass just further stabs your spine with tingles. “Slow Affection” is the soundtrack to a murder scene in a monastery, and “Dry” – with it’s underlying synths, pizzicato string stabs and otherworldly vocals by Ess Beck – is another haunting horror show. This is some scary stuff for sure – but in a life-affirming way.
Look, if you came here for tidy little psych or lo-fi numbers – then you’re going to be fucked right off. This is some kind of very dark art-rock that is meant to give you the chills and nudge you out of your comfort zone. “Swim” does not feel like a “project” or a “sideline” to their mother band though. You can definitely hear their influences and flecks of their work in TOMAD, but this is something completely different and very much worthy of its own merit. These tracks are so incredibly well put together and thought out – that it has to be that way. I’m very happy that ZRN are now road ready as well to perform this in front of a live audience. I can’t wait till the next chapter of this series hits my ears too. This is really an extremely admirable achievement from a great local act that deserves to be heard by anyone willing to listen. Truly I wish this was the Sound Of Aarhus.
“Swim” is released today on Cassette and CD through their merch store – Bandcamp.
Catch ZRN live at Ungdomshuset, Odense 19/5 and Radar (Aarhus) 20/5 with Sunken.
ZRN marks a big change with their name change and new EP. Swim is definitely a record that is meant to hang together. It’s meant to be taken in as one piece – almost as a classical suite or an acid jazz album; an extremely admirable achievement from a great local act that deserves to be heard by anyone willing to listen. Truly I wish this was the Sound Of Aarhus. (5/6)