‘Water‘ is the debut full-length from Russia’s Anton Zap. In spite of being at least half comprised of material that has been released before (on labels such as Jus Ed’s Underground Quality, and Zap’s own Ethereal Sound), it sounds completely at home on Apollo Records and it also works as a coherent listening experience – a testament to the consistency of Zap’s somewhat individual sound.
The eponymous opening track, weighing in at over ten minutes, just floats on by. A lilting pad rides a laid back high hat and snare combo whilst a tuned bassline doubles as an extra percussive element that is highly suggestive of some kind of intricate water feature or science experiment. Deep in the mix are further reverberating washes of sound, and that’s basically all there is to it, but Zap keeps the interest throughout by riding the groove, subtly morphing the elements at exactly the right pace, so it feels only about half as long as its actual running time.
Changing the mood slightly but still retaining Zap’s signature, ‘Road Trip Song‘ is slightly more upbeat, a shuffling version which utilises all the tricks of dub techno without falling prey to any of its shortcomings. A low and heavy bass, a fleeting melodic refrain, the occasional drum hit with a big reverb and an almost constantly phasing background element – there’s almost nothing there to work with, but once again Zap works his filter magic for over ten minutes and the track never outstays its welcome because somehow it just feels like sunshine in your ears. There should be a beach somewhere that has this playing on constant repeat.
‘Fade To What‘ is a totally ambient piece and considering Apollo’s history (although it’s far from being an ambient label these days), whilst it’s not surprising to find such a track on offer here, it feels like a token gesture and adds little to the record as a whole. ‘Funky Man‘ immediately brings the beat back, a low slung groove powered by minimal acid, a swinging breakbeat and a piano loop, whilst the ghost of Photek swoops menacingly overhead with an ever-present chord. Something makes me think this might have been one of Zap’s early efforts, but in spite of the slightly incongruous combination it seems to work.
The best work is saved for the last three tracks on the album. ‘Captain Storm‘ rolls a poppy descending bass synth under… well, not much, but once again Zap is able to work the desk with enough guile to fully maintain the funk, something he also does to devastating effect on ‘Miles And More‘, arguably the highlight of ‘Water’. Its use of one of very few samples on the record (Zap is undoubtedly of the analogue school), an aircraft pilot communicating weather and visibility conditions – ‘real smooth, no turbulence… and there’s real thin layers of cloud… but we can see through them’ – seems to describe the music perfectly. Sweetly filtered pads meander whilst an urgent but still modest percussive foundation gives a constant sense of motion. Closer ‘Miniature’ goes widescreen with some epic strings, luxurious pads and a big lead sound over an intro lasting nearly five minutes alone before Zap drops in a sub and some rattles which are subsequently forgotten again shortly afterwards in favour of a lush fade out.
Following a raft of excellent EP’s over the last few years it is good to have Zap finally drop a full-length, and ‘Water’ is an excellent record with much to shout about, but it’s a little disappointing that so much of it is retrospective – a seasoned fan could find themselves shelling out for a double vinyl edition just to get their hands on three new tracks, which seems a little harsh. One can only assume that perhaps Zap’s workrate is as understated as his music – or perhaps, more enticingly, this is just a taster, a primer for an album ‘proper’ that is still to come. Either way ‘Water’ is a great summation of Zap’s achievements so far and a strong indicator of what he may yet be capable of.
2. Road Trip Song
3. Fade To What
4. Funky Man
5. Captain Storm
6. Miles and More