Review: Soft Blade – Zerkalo

I listen to Zerkalo as a set of digital files, although the aesthetic is 100% weathered tape. These electronic rhythms sound like they’re throbbing upward through a layer of mud. The synthesisers and cymbals feel blunted and unsteady. There is a distance between Zerkalo and I; both the distance of age as the record conjures the illusion of being recorded (and neglected, perhaps?) years prior, but also a distance of trust. Her textures choices feel menacing somehow; the buzz of those bass lines reminds me of overhead bomber jets – glints of surveillance, concealed intentions – while her voice is always skewed as if heard through water, smothered in reverb and refracted, dislodging her humanity ever so slightly.

There are notes of techno here, although they don’t goad me into dance. Rather, the dulled metronomic pulses of tracks like “Untitled28” – with ride cymbals tumbling over the top – feel like an anxiety; the cerebral restlessness that haunts those moments of physical stillness, throbbing and quivering from the inside. Meanwhile, the slowed-down Casio samba of “Pesnya Volchonka” has me shuffling through the snow of the record cover, ducking away from the synth leads that scan like searchlights, eternally looking over my shoulder. The release is over in 18 minutes, but when one spends the entire experience nurturing a gnawing sense of threat, such a duration can feel like an eternity.