Liam Murphy

October 9, 2022

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

The moustache-clad musician provides pulsing, spirited tracks with a perennially interesting sound alongside a troop of wonderful instrumentalists

It is hard to know where to find fun in the UK these days. A lumbering Conservative government and cost of living crisis have the populace feeling downbeat, and the sun hits that little bit colder as the winter approaches. Still, there are trustworthy haunts if you’re willing enough to find them, like The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston. The well-worn pub plays host to different artists passing through the country’s capital – as well as local acts and even movie screenings – offering a classic, smaller gig setting than many of the larger, daunting venues that exist in London. In the back room of The Shacklewell Arms on Wednesday 5 October, fun was most definitely on the cards. 

Zouj leads a troupe of musicians onto the stage before a steadily growing crowd, launching into a set that – for all intents and purposes – seems specifically designed to lift the mood and lure audience members into movement. A true amalgamation of styles, Zouj’s artistry is all about ‘finding the soul in synthetic sounds’. A mission that leads the German artist to concoct tracks with an explosive and unpredictable energy. Set opener Embryo 2 sends sub-bass thudding out into the venue space, these low rumbles contrasted by synth notes that cascade like thin sparkling rain. The vocals, offered by Zouj himself, Sahareya and Dave Rossel, are often effected. Sometimes pushed through a perfecting autotune teasing towards Zapp and Roger electro-funk, sometimes coarse and granular, nodding to more experimental avenues of electronic music. 

The band find their groove and the audience warm up to them and their affable stage presence quickly. The marching beat of StOOpid invites the crowd to loosen up and exorcise some of those mid-week tensions, with sickly sweet autotune melodies singing “I don’t want the job I want to loop you in my thoughts, because I’m stupid.” The talent of each member of Zouj’s team is displayed in the slick switches in genre, the recent single Metal, for instance, causing drummer Nicholas Stampf and guitarist Dave Rossel to dive into a more rough, band-centric sound before lifting back out into the minimalist electronic sound the song exists in most of the time, formed by Zouj’s own dynamic bassline. 

The outfit – though some of the band members are temporary stand-ins – know the sound and the atmosphere they produce as if they’ve been at it for many years. As they work through cuts off of Zouj’s latest mixtape release, the vibe is such that the audience can either watch the band and enjoy their tight, punchy performance or lose themselves in the beat and the sparkling synth ventures in a carefree and entranced manner.

Sahareya, an artist in her own rite hailing from Slovenia, launches into her own song Other Side. A heavy-set rap song with lyrics displaying a carefree and investigative mindset, an eagerness to explore and live life to its fullest. In this short interlude, Sahareya more than proves herself worthy of holding the audience’s attention by herself.

From there, the band jump back into Zouj with Delete After Death, an undeniable party starter with a French house spirit, followed by Bad News before the audience must brave the cooling October air on their way out of the vibrant atmosphere crafted by the band.

It is apparent that Zouj is a surgical music-maker from the patchwork quality of many of his most popular songs. A host of styles seem to emanate from his sound, the melodies moving fluidly between these styles. And, with an incredibly talented band supporting him, this stop on the artist’s EU/UK tour was always likely to impress. The musicians’ offered infectiously dance-y tracks while maintaining a very friendly, bubbly demeanour.