A jazzy Braindance odyssey: Zoid – Nebulous Concrete

Zoid’s vague bio tells us he “grew up in Dublin in the 90s listening to techno and jazz”, and there’s not much else to go on. Listening to his latest release Nebulous Concrete you’d guess he found the sweet spot between the two, and the 90s were also spent trawling the Rephlex archives for Braindance abstractions, to satisfy his jazz mind.

And if there’s any doubt where he pledges his allegiance, he tweets the odd picture of his two dogs – one called Aphex, the other called Twin. Even his track titles ring a Rephlex bell, veering between sci-fi surrealism and letter/digit mash-ups that look like programming commands.

Zoid taps into AFX’s more playful, mischievous vein with a freewheeling set of eight tracks that deliriously shape-shift, shrugging off any rigid grid or loop constraints. Even so, it’s more reined in than earlier tracks on the 2011 Sundillion EP with its acid stabs and frantic vocal edits, or the hyper sonic collages on 2013’s Troonax EP.

BeFunky Collage

The jazz takes a while to kick in. Opener S-2003 J 2 lays a sci-fi b B-movie foundation with its simple, nervy synth motif that’s trying to catch up with a smudgy 4/4 techno kick and fluttery hi-hats. Hyperion Drive is snapped into shape with Drexciyan whip-snares, under some future-noir clarinet.

Nebulous Concrete’s Technicolor Wizard of Oz moment arrives on Doorway to Cassini Division, with a banjaxed clock chime whirring against woodblock breaks and key solos that spin off into the ether. You’re either in or out at this point, and if you hang on there’s plenty more where that came from. Centrepiece track Dione Space Concrete Factory B333_1d is also the most joyous – comfort blanket electro-jazz with a bass nod to The Other People Place or Rephlex surrealist Global Goon, and a solo composed of air hockey samples.

Zoid was online recently saying he was happy with his track names this time, and he’s got some far-out space prog titles. The Seven Rings of the Purple Clouds of Rhea evokes a watercolour lunarscape on a dog-eared 70s gatefold LP you’d find in you mad uncle’s attic, but it also snaps along on meandering Rhodes piano, like a Muzak pianist gone rogue. And to keep you on your toes, Octome’s Mimas is a frantic breaks detour, before you’re crashed down to Earth on Iapetus Grove – an Earth with field recordings of Myanmar chanting amid stuttery kicks and abstract spacey ambience.

With the 90s getting mined and pillaged for R&B tropes, and new wave and post-punk being the default starting block for most guitar bands these days, it’s a nice sidestep to hear artists like Zoid putting their own spin on the playful side of abstract electronica. Like Brainwaltzera’s recent album Poly-Ana, Nebulous Concrete will nudge a few dormant synapses in anyone who played the Braindance Coincidence to death, but it’s also an open door into a new world of Zoid.

Stream Nebulous Concrete below – and it’s on Zoid’s Bandcamp as well as Spotify and Apple Music. He’s also selling the album in a sleek credit card USB format – a limited edition of 50, with an added four unreleased exclusive tracks on the Synthreed EP. I got one (pictured above) because Bitcoin is dead already.