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Conscious Creators 007: Zebbler Encanti Experience channel stillness, silence, & resilience on holistic A/V departure into the world of ‘Syncorswim’ [Album Review]

The world of EDM is vast and diverse. From the commercial realm to the underground, electronic music is always moving at hyperspeed. But how can fans sift through all the noise to seek out the more substantive, meaningful, consciously-attuned musicians? Introducing: Conscious Creators, a focused writing series dedicated to highlighting artists who continually devote themselves to creating music that upholds CE’s mission. 

These are the industry tastemakers committed to bypassing the surface-level gimmicks in favor of something more substantial. Their art encourages alignment with the self, affirmational living, shadow and light work, self-healing and self-love, living authentically, practicing intention. These are the creatives dedicated to leading their audience into a conscious awakening.

Like most things in the live music industry last year, Zebbler Encanti Experience(ZEE)’s nationwide 2020 tour was cut short by the global pandemic hitting the US hard in March. As Zebbler retreated to Boston, Encanti fled the country the day before the Scottish borders closed to lockdown with his partner Catherine, on the wild west coast of the moody and remote Highlands at Eagle Rock.

Collaborating with one another from across the pond during this tumultuous time, Syncorswim was born out of the sound of silence, and of stillness in motion. As ZEE’s newest Audio/Visual masterpiece, out today on Gravitas Recordings, the nine-track LP is a journey of the soul and the duo’s answer to a world without dancefloors.

With the material world peeled back to expose the bare bones of existence, Syncorswim is a meditation on the myriad faces of love in a silent world gone mad with fear and loss. Each song is an emotional destination, a freeform concert created in the vacuum of a literal wilderness, performed for an audience of one. It’s a glitchy, downtempo, ambient departure from the cacophonous dance-party entries in ZEE’s pre-pandemic musical catalog.

With the two artists working together in isolation— from Boston to Scotland, respectively— what better metaphor to use here than earth’s two hemispheres. Like the disparate seasons of the northern hemisphere, where COVID struck during summer, and the southern hemisphere which underwent the same global pandemic during the cold, winter months, the audiophile (Encanti) and the videophile (Zebbler) can be seen coming together to build the multi-faceted fantastical A/V world of Syncorswim.

The audiophile’s hemisphere of Syncorswim

Throughout the album, Encanti revels in the authentic expression of live performance instead of relying as much on post-production editing. All synth sounds on Syncorswim are cuts from live jams on the OB-6 analog synthesizer, bringing a warm and personal touch to the fabric of the production. Encanti also designed his own custom software, the Refractalizer, to create the granular textures heard throughout the album. The resulting convergence of analog synthesis and customized digital time-stretching gives this album a unique profile.

But the sound design demands more from its listeners than speaking about the album’s style and technical elements. Syncorswim has unseen depths and illusions that mature and develop nuanced layers with time and repeat plays. Listeners would be doing themselves a greater service to take the audio journey on noise-canceling headphones or a nice sound system, and with videos in high definition. For this meticulously crafted album, the fully immersive A/V experience is intimate, vulnerable, and deeply humbling.

The videophile’s hemisphere of Syncorswim

Zebbler created a 4K visual counterpart to each track, taking pride in personally recording all of the footage used. He set out to capture the landscapes and sensual morphology of America’s wilderness and heartland with his girlfriend, Leah. The rich visual narrative, constructed alongside the expert music production, is a series of meditations on the strange beauty of our planet— from the smallest speck of sand to vistas spanning hundreds of miles and everything in between. It is also a celebration of survival and love. Zebbler actually proposed to Leah halfway through this trip, under the world’s tallest tree deep in the redwood forests of California. She said yes.

Like two sides of the same coin, one cannot experience the soft sonic touches of the album without taking in its rich visual textures. Encanti’s stirring sound design and Zebbler’s nature-inspired visuals are a deeply felt response to a global encounter with death, isolation, and the unfathomable resilience of love. In fact, Syncorswim ventures to argue that one cannot exist without the other. Even the LP’s title suggests as much, pointing to the very duality that lays deep at the heart of the album.

Finding beauty in the wholeness of duality

Throughout the immersive journey, ZEE constantly sets out to bring these dualistic themes to the surface in different ways. Just look to the ultra-violet shots taken in the third track, “Unseen,” where the stock camera footage spotlights the often overlooked micro-organisms that exist in the natural environment: an insect’s elongated tongue curving to cyclical perfection, the tiny whiskers on the legs of a busy ant, vibrant spots forming circular patterns on the wings of a butterfly, or the fuzzy tendrils on a flower as the bee works hard to pollinate it.

By contrast, ZEE takes macro-level moments of appreciation for our natural world’s inconceivable wonder and majestic promise— whether it’s in the long zoom shots of mountainous landscapes catching the sun’s solar flares, a timelapse of clouds moving majestically over a gaping grad canyon, or the turning waves of evening tides rolling into the Bay Area. Here, we’re of course referring to the journey’s taking-off point in the first track, “In Fixed Point in Motion,” featuring a virtuosic hand pan performance from Dan Mulqueen.

As the album unfolds, Encanti and Zebbler’s unique, emotive chemistry ebbs and flows with the nuanced breaks and cadences of brain-mapping the human psyche. Zebbler counterpoints Encanti’s rhythmic tethers with the liquid landscapes and sensual morphology of his own extended immersion in American wilderness with his fiancé.

Then, in what feels like the blink of an eye, the A/V experience cuts abruptly to “Moonrise” and scenic city timelapse videography, the bustling streets as car tail lights streak across the nighttime pavement, and giant LED screen imitating colorful AI-flower formations sprouting to life on the side of a building. The dripping irony of such a sight isn’t wasted on the detailed participant either, as ZEE works diligently to create a video montage of conspicuous contrast, one that is constantly folding over on itself, and turning into itself. Sonically, broken dance beats unexpectedly ascend from the acoustic piano in “Moonrise” with pulsating tempos. Without a doubt, sight-and-sound are working off each other technically in the same dualistic vein.

Cinematic waves recede in “Ripple Continuum” only to plunder psychedelic underworlds of sexuality in Contact Traces. “Unseen” is a quiet and tender celebration, before the pure joy of “Surrendering” takes us to the generous, rolling climax and thrilling drop of this album. “Kintsugi” counterpoints again, as it grapples with  – and ultimately celebrates – the beauty of the cracks and crevices in relationships. Vast organic soundscapes accompany the deeply hallucinogenic proto-banger “Ubiquitous.” Lastly, “Salud” pays homage to collective endurance before it brings the deep listener home to a warm, hopeful harbor after the storm. Living up to their name once again, Zebbler Encanti Experience shoots for the stars and scores.

It’s always darkest before the dawn

While brighter days are surely ahead, Syncorswim is a raw, gritty look into that dark season of death; while simultaneously providing a looking glass into a hopeful future and a glimmer of light into the season of healing. Hindsight is 20/20, is what the album seems to say rather outwardly; although in no certain terms. That, and also how humanity cannot pass into the light without first moving through the darkness. After all, as the old saying goes, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

In any case, Syncorswim is a brilliant work of art, careful and nuanced, as deeply substantive as it is highly stylized. At times stark and vibrantly textured, while at others bleak or warped, this bonafide artistic concept album reminds us that we are both big and small. “Purely, a masterpiece” is the only way to describe this immersive and humbling A/V experience.

Zebbler Encanti Experience – Syncorswim LP (4K A/V Experience)

Zebbler Encanti Experience – Syncorswim LP

Conscious Creators – SoundCloud Playlist

Conscious Creators – Spotify Playlist

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