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The Zoup - Album Review: Symbiotic

24 Sep 2016 // A review by GrayVickers

My first exposure to The Zoup was about 7 years ago, standing side of stage as they tore up Auckland's “Juice Bar”. Sweating pop sensibilities out of every pore, their infectious Rock and Roll captivated the growing crowd, despite being early on in the night. I was lucky enough to catch many more times after that and was always impressed not only by the quality of their performances, but also by the depth and dynamics of their songs. Their 2009 release The Zoup EP received high rotation in my car, and was a stand out EP from that year. Fast forward to 2016, and The Zoup have finally released their debut album, Symbiotic

A lot has happened since 2009, one of the notable advancements has been the evolution of drummer Dave Johnston as a producer and an engineer, and this has seen him take the helm of this record as producer,  and engineer alongside Matt Keller. Dave's pedigree as a songwriter has been growing exponentially over the last few years as part of  his various other projects and Symbiotic feels as though it has benefited greatly having that level of experience steering the ship. 

The album flows like a live show, going through peaks and troughs as a set list would. Ripping out of the gate with the driving title track and straight into Shao Ten. Even through the heavier and faster sections of the record, The Zoup never lose grip of dynamics that define their sound. Single string guitar melodies weave around smooth, jazzy chords set against a backdrop of chunky distorted bass and pounding drums. Vocalist Jaydn de Graaf's vocals are at times ethereal, other times soaring. With harmonies littered sparingly never taking away from the power of his voice. 

In the troughs, when the tempo shifts down, are where The Zoup are truly great. Tracks like Talking to Myself and Young and Unaware showcase the exceptional song writing demonstrated on this record. Patient and spacious, The Zoup create vast soundscapes that never rush to go anywhere, instead confidently pace to triumphant climaxes and usher listeners lovingly through the ride. The acoustic We Should Have Listened exceptionally shows off the incredible melodies de Graaf has to offer on this album. A slow build, accompanied by rich layers, vocals and guitars playing against each other brilliantly and Finn inspired harmonies combine to create one of the album's highlights. 

Produced through a combination of pro studio's, DIY beach house studio's, and a few touches of home made magic, the record has really captured the essence and dynamic of The Zoup. The nuances of performances show through the tape clearly. From Johnston's foot running the hi hats continuously through the tracks, keeping the troops in line, to hearing the varying strength from guitarist Dominic Mauger's picking hand, the album sounds incredibly human and the performances excellent throughout. I would've liked to hear a slightly roomier sound in some of the tracks, having the drums bathe a little more in the sounds captured in the room mics and having guitars dripping a little more in delay, but the mix is still excellent. Every instrument has their own space to live and breath within the songs and the vocals have room to play cleanly without fighting for space in the mix.

It's been a long time between drinks for The Zoup, but Symbiotic is a welcome quench for the palette. The album as a whole flows wonderfully, contrasting between big Rock tracks and understated ballads. Exceptional song writing and performances have been captured here. With the single The Cuts and The Crime already getting airplay across New Zealand, I have a feeling we may be hearing much more as this record finds its way into the hearts of music fans across the nation. 

Song of the Album: We Should Have Listened
Moment of the Album: Talking to Myself – 03:09
Overall Rating: 4/5


About The Zoup

Creatively adventurous Auckland rock band The Zoup have just released their highly anticipated debut album Symbiotic, a sonic journey representing five years of musical exploration and experimentation which truly represents the collective essence of the band. Alternative rock fans can get the album on CD from the band's website, or download via iTunes and all other popular online music stores.

Symbiotic is characterised by tight, off kilter rhythms (which aren’t so familiar to such an accessible sound) and intricate, playful lead lines that dance around the powerful yet honest vocal delivery of lead singer Jaydn de Graaf.

With the frantic, weaving energy of Symbiotic, The Zoup display a convincing evolution in their sound, improving and building upon their previous releases in spades. Utilizing the skill set of producer/engineer Dave Johnston (Villainy, Armed In Advance) to craft the project, The Zoup have emerged from their studio journey with a powerful work of art that has vibe and energy bursting from the seams.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Zoup


Year: 2016
Type: Album
The Kaipara Sessions
Year: 2012
Type: EP
The Piha Sessions
Year: 2012
Type: EP
The Zoup EP
Year: 2009
Type: EP

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