Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Onuka – Zenit

Q: Who can we feature to fill out our 2020 sidebar as quickly as possible?


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Zenit” is one of those weird monstrosities that defies description. Imagine the littlest recorder solo recorded in 4th grade music class, accompanied by marching band drums, with synths that sound like water dripping out of your ear. Then add in Nata Zhyzhchenko’s oddly soothing but slightly bratty voice, cinematic warm horns from outer space, and then the blaring horn from Britney’s “Stronger.” “Zenit” sounds like a chimera of a Charli XCX, Bjork, Britney, and M83 song, yet the end result is completely unlike any of them. Is this what people who like 100 gecs think 100 gecs sounds like?

Alfred Soto: Leading with a minute of electronic fooferal, “Zenit” creates ponds of sound with brass instruments and keyboards. The translated lyrics suggest self-affirmation — as if the confidence of “Zenit” didn’t already speak for itself.

Will Adams: I love Onuka for most of the same reasons I love Kate Boy. Both hone in on themes of human potential, of reaching a point of perfection, and both avoid falling into cloying territory by making the music as massive as possible. “Zenit” is Onuka in standard form, with the traditional Ukrainian instruments vaulting octaves over tectonic, Homogenic-esque beats. Nata Zhyzhchenko is a more reserved vocalist than Kate Akhurst, so the arrangement does most of the lifting here. But that walloping drop is exquisite nonetheless.

Ian Mathers: I mean, the bit with the drumming and the flute or flute-like instrument is so much better than the more singy bits that at first it’s a letdown, but further reflection reveals the singy bits are nice too.

Camille Nibungco: It would be reductive to draw similarities to Enya, though that’s what I immediately think of. But the aggressive switching between the minimal to pounding production and unique sound of the Ukrainian instruments give Onuka its novelty.

Katherine St Asaph: One of those tracks that impresses or suffers in context. Placed adjacent to a bunch of other artpop/alt-pop tracks in a playlist, which it could be, the flute would sound akin to so many other pop flute samples in the last decade, the percussion akin to so many other such drops, the snaking soprano line like so many others, in tone as well as melody (I hear Charlotte Martin’s “Cut the Cord” but am not convinced I’m not actually remembering something else). The arrangement’s lapses into near-silence and that ratcheting-up synth — imagine a kid’s cartoon, the SFX for pouring liquid to fill up a measuring cup — are striking, but more striking when heard in isolation. But then, everything in the track is; I’m grading on that curve.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Repetitive flute melodies are admittedly overdone, but the sopilka has an abrasiveness to it that adds tension and bombast to this stop ‘n’ go stadium romp. Similar songs abound, but “Zenit” at least sells its drama.

Iain Mew: The skittering chaos of the drop, high-end and low-end in wild accordance, is everything in “Zenit.” The rest is build-up and playing with tension as to when it’s going to blast its way through again. It doesn’t drag because they play their teasing so well, picking out different echoes of the drop to lurk in the distance each time.

Julian Axelrod: I can’t remember the last time I heard professional production sound this rickety and abrasive. That’s a compliment, of course; I’m happy to give myself over to the song, even as it grinds my nerves to dust with a beat that’s equal parts Hans Zimmer and Chinese water torture. The drop sounds inhuman, unstable and all-encompassing, a shrieking behemoth that threatens to tear the track to smithereens. The fact that it reaches the finish line in one piece is a feat in itself.

Brad Shoup: They’ve paired the techno blats of “Vidlik” with the atmospheric, cinematic chirp of “Vsesvit.” Instead of going as hard as either, they coast on cold air until it’s time to call the Zimmerblast down. Gorgeously mixed, austere without being chilly: I can’t believe I forget how good these folks are.

Reader average: [7] (2 votes)

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