With every surge of the pandemic, a soundtrack emerges. Cyclical soundtracks, in fact. First, warm, optimistic fear foists celebrity covers of “Imagine” onto us all. Then, months of winter mark dour observations as people spend time with themselves looking at the brash remains that they all share. Rinse, repeat, release until it’s hard for anyone to feel that optimism is worth placing a bet on anymore.
A question then: On the turning into winter of calendar year three, would there ever again be energetic daydream music, to mark the start of what seems now to be an endemic disease? Answer: Zap Tura’s Adaptasia. Meticulously produced by Phil Young and released by Des Moines’ Warm Gospel Tapes label, Zap Tura’s second full-length album Adaptasia is a feast of digital exuberance, something I didn’t know could be offered earnestly anymore.
The first song, “River,” explodes from out of a sped-up sitcom theme that can still be found if you twist the rabbit ears just right into a truly joyous opening tune. Ritual melodic forays are introduced, most of which will appear throughout the album’s ensuing eight anodic tracks. For proof, credits on “Echospace” include “AM radio & cell phone oscillation,” further establishing Zap Tura’s insistence on including all imagined digital instruments into the mix. Bird song bridges the dead space between tracks, setting the green screen to allow the requisite synth-whirl to accompany this chorus on “Protector”:
We’re not soft, we look soft
We just play piano and love hopscotch
(Live a little)
While certainly not a yawning philosophical pit, it’s still heady enough, saved perhaps by that recurring and well-received invitation to live, at least a little. There is a lot of that sentiment throughout the whirl, both stated and implied in countless synth layers. Guided by a lost Local Natives guitar line, “Every Blessing” even comes with digital church bells ringing. Combined with interpolations from some artificial music box, the whole thing could have easily become lost into its own expanse. But quiet, somber notes on a well-tuned piano refocus the tune, and the album for that matter. Ambulance wails in the back/foreground bring the listener even closer to our shared current and former moment: It cannot be all kaleidoscope daydreams anymore, even if we try really, really hard.
Fittingly, “Paradise Lost” marks the symphonic fall of the record, a bookmark of chaos and distortion that isn’t resolved until the record’s final track. “Endless” returns to the former satellite pop which found such joy in chasing melodies through hard drives. It could be horns anchoring the melody on the track, but it turns out to be yet another synth layer. That’s the pleasure here: wandering electronic soundscapes in heedless pursuit of straight serotonin fuel, never relying on lyrics or vocal deliverance to spread its message of innocent effervescence. My advice? Get it while you can. Winter can’t last forever, can it?
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 303.