FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week, Caroline Whiteley finds out how Peaches-endorsed Berlin producer Ziúr went from chopping up Rihanna and Justin Bieber hits to asking grand philosophical questions of our chaotic planet on her impressive recent debut album, U Feel Anything?
From: Berlin, Germany
Must-Hear: U Feel Anything? (Planet Mu)
For Fans Of: Rabit, Jlin, Lotic
“I’m a little drowsy from the weekend but I’m sure we’ll manage somehow”, Ziúr warns me ahead of our conversation on a dreary Monday evening. The DJ and producer has just arrived back in Berlin, her adopted hometown, after playing consecutive nights in London and Ljubljana. In the last year she’s traveled more than ever and recorded mind-bending mixes for Mixmag and Dazed. She’s also been added to the Discwoman roster and released a powerful debut album, U Feel Anything?, a collaboration between Objects Ltd and Planet Mu.
Ziúr grew up in a small town but moved to Berlin after university for a relationship roughly a decade ago. Though that relationship didn’t work out, the city proved fruitful for her musical pursuits, and she stayed. She began DJing around that time, but always had a bone-dry sense of humor, which you can hear in her voice as she speaks. “Even back then I was into exploring how much I could troll people with my selections”. Her sets are bold and daring, often mixing hard-hitting club cuts from KILBOURNE or Berlin artists such as Amnesia Scanner and Air Max ’97 with the chopped up sounds of a pop track like Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ or Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’. “People have been writing me if I could send them the track which made me laugh, [since] the Bieber track really only was the original track pitched down around 40bpm.”
When she found herself disenchanted with the Berlin techno scene, she founded BOO HOO, a night focused on divergent club sounds free from genre restrictions, with fellow musician and promoter Joey Hansom. BOO HOO has since hosted countless local artists, including Lakuti, mobilegirl, Born in Flamez and Dis Fig. The next installment is set for December, but for the moment organizing the night has become a more difficult task to manage as her career as a producer has taken off.
“At some point I was asking myself, how big is an ego compared to the universe?”
While putting together a solidarity party for refugees in 2014, she realized that “all the others on the bill [Planningtorock, Bianca Kruk, Tama Sumo, Lakuti and Rroxymore] were playing really different music from what I was so I thought maybe I should just start a project and perform live.” Within a few months she had written enough music to throw together a short live set and Ziúr was born. Her first self-released mixtape, /xuːx/, included collaborations with Samantha Urbani (formerly of Brooklyn dance-punk outfit Friends), Dev Hynes and rapper MicahTron. At the end of 2015, iconic electroclash producer Peaches invited her to join her on tour, becoming a mentor and friend. Her EP Deeform, released on Objects Limited, caught the attention of Planet Mu, who then approached her and asked her to release a full-length album.
The record sounds crushingly contemporary, its eerie, screechy melodies and pounding, chopped up beats feel like the sonic equivalent of looking at what’s going on in the wider world and questioning it. “I think that’s a way to interpret it,” she says. “It’s so hard to put meaning in a track that doesn’t have any lyrics.” On ‘Laughing And Crying Are The Same Thing’, a mind-trip of a song featuring Swedish singer Zhala, and one of the album’s highlights, her voice is so distorted that it’s hard to discern any words at all. The song’s title, much like the record, is full of contrast and contradiction.
There’s a process to Ziúr’s music that’s informed by this wish to get past the little things and try to understand the big picture. The record, she explains, is about the universe. “At some point I was asking myself, how big is an ego compared to the universe? That’s crazy. I still don’t have an answer for that but people’s egos are just so big”. All we have, she says, is “the inner perspective. The whole framework of the album is basically all these questions I have no answer to”. She pauses, before adding, “I have this really romantic vision that if I’m just open enough then I will eventually figure it out and that is kind of beautiful.”
Caroline Whiteley is a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter.