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upsammy - Zoom Music Album Reviews

Invoking the playful spirit of classic IDM, the Dutch producer’s debut full-length is an ode to reveling in the beauty of life’s tiniest details.

Despite its title, Zoom has nothing to do with the video conferencing app that’s kept us all connected over the past few months. If anything, the debut full-length from the Dutch electronic musician upsammy (aka Thessa Torsing) is about disconnection—if not from society as a whole, then from the day-to-day hustle and bustle that often prevents us from examining the world around us. It’s an ode to taking a closer look and soaking up the beauty of life’s tiniest details. The chunk of ice melting in Torsing’s hand on the cover—also referenced in the woozy opener “Melt in My Heated Hand”—is a metaphor for the entire record. Zoom is a rumination on impermanence.
Torsing lives in Amsterdam, but she has an affinity for nature, which provides an ideal setting for the moments of thoughtful observation that inspired Zoom. Videos for “Extra Warm” and “It Drips” both feature fixed shots of pastoral tranquility. Though the music itself isn’t necessarily peaceful—Torsing’s percolating rhythms often recall the impish spirit of classic, late-’90s IDM—it is richly melodic and full of light, with sparkling synths and billowing pads that invoke the magic of the untamed wild.

It was a DJ residency at Amsterdam’s much loved De School nightclub that first put Torsing on the wider electronic music radar, and words like “adventurous” are often used to describe her sets. Straight lines aren’t really her thing, and depending on her mood, she’s as likely to hit crowds with low-key ambient bliss as she is intense blasts of off-kilter electro. Zoom takes a similar approach; while it’s not impossible for DJs to put these tracks to good use, the album clearly wasn’t designed with dancefloor functionality in mind.

Zoom is transportive, and it is best when glistening and gliding toward Torsing’s wooded hideaways. “Glowing Out of the Plastic Box” is a shot of bright bucolic wonder, the charm of its cotton-candy melodies only enhanced by the song’s crooked stomp. “Echo Boomed” is similarly buoyant, although its carefree rhythm feels more like a breezy afternoon walk through the countryside. There’s a lightness to much of Zoom, though that shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of complexity. Torsing’s production is abundantly detailed and always evolving; her music has an organic quality, an aesthetic aided by her use of field recordings and intermittent patches of fuzz. There’s something delightful about the restlessly playful drum patterns of songs like the world-weary “Twisted Like a Flame” and the more rousing “Reality Paces the Platform,” which together close out the album on a high note.

At times, Torsing’s percussion coalesces into something that resembles a danceable groove. With its dubby, halftime bounce, “Extra Warm” is Zoom’s most obvious head nodder, although it’s been overlaid with additional drums that top 170 bpm, darting to and fro with the inexhaustible energy of a hummingbird. “Subsoil” is similarly energetic, its bubbling percussion bringing to mind the frantic vibe of shangaan electro and other fleet-footed African rhythms. Much slower is the sci-fi strut of “Send-Zen,” the only track that could potentially be described as ominous.

Zoom arrives at a moment in which the world feels particularly chaotic, but the album’s irrepressible shine shouldn’t be dismissed as superficial escapism. For those who have the luxury of pausing to reflect, right now seems like an opportune time to simply be present and take stock of their surroundings, both physical and mental; upsammy’s album makes for a rewarding soundtrack to such introspection.
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