Ziúr: Eyeroll

In the early stages of writing Eyeroll, Berlin-based DJ and producer Ziúr started calling it her “jazz album.” “I mean it’s not really,” she admitted in one interview, “but I guess it’s my kind of jazz.” There is a marked difference between this body of work and her older records, which are icy expanses of fractured electronica; 2021’s Antifate, for example, is spare and heady, blanketed in a digital frost. On Eyeroll, Ziúr crafts warmer yet more extreme textures, responding to the composed poems and vocal improvisations of a handful of guests.

Ziúr’s collaborators are a fierce and versatile cohort. Among them are Egyptian poet, singer, and composer Abdullah Miniawy; Manchester-based rapper Iceboy Violet; and New York DJ and multimedia artist Juliana Huxtable. Each has a distinct, angular presence. On the crackling “If the City Burns I Will Not Run,” Miniway reads a poem in Arabic that depicts a charred and war-torn land—a hostile place, but no less of a home. As Berlin-based composer James Ginzburg modulates a drone that hits glass harp frequencies, Miniway’s cadence ripples just above a whisper, and Ziúr meshes his soft trills with dappled rhythms on rototoms—tunable drums that change pitch as they rotate around a threaded metal ring.

The instrument is fundamental to Eyeroll; Ziúr recorded the album mostly at night, and sought out percussion that wouldn’t make too much noise. The rototoms, which she tapped and scraped in dizzying patterns, became the foundation of each track, evolving and resurfacing throughout the record. On “Move On,” Ziúr thumps out a clubby dance beat, goading Iceboy Violet’s pillow-muffled rap. On the title track, the skins sound like they’re being pelted by rubber balls, mimicking a frenetic free jazz drum solo.

Songs like “Malikan,” “Move On,” and “Nontrivial Differential” make a strong case for jazz as a descriptor. Each cut features skewed and splintered trumpet, played in frantic blasts by Miniawy. On “Malikan,” sparse percussion and bass that warps like a sagging floorboard become off-kilter accents to Miniawy’s horn and ululating howls. His playing is cleaner on the skeletal “Nontrivial Differential,” leaving space for the vocal acrobatics of Welsh experimentalist Elvin Brandhi. The largely improvisational singer has exceptional vocal control; she can plunge to smokey, lounge crooner lows, snap to shrill yelps, and summon hellfire like Diamanda Galás.

Brandhi’s verses are among the most exhilarating on Eyeroll. On the title track, she clicks, shouts, and screeches, straining her throat into a dry moan that sounds like her uvula is being stretched out with surgical clamps. Ziúr’s sole lyrical contribution, “I roll the shittiest cigarettes, ” becomes a darkly funny admission in Brandhi’s mouth—a mundane detail contorted into a fiendish mantra. Ziúr allows room for Brandhi to flail, but sculpts some of her most interesting sounds to bristle against her voice. On the spectacular “Cut Cut Quote,” the producer ekes out noises that recall crisp, creaking leather. As Brandhi whips into a frenzy, barking out harsh consonants and foaming at the mouth, Ziúr ramps up her rototoms and discharges barbed lines of synthesizer. In the hands of a sensitive and dynamic composer like Ziúr, her collaborators are emboldened by the racket.