Even from its moniker, ZiRP stands out as a one-of-a-kind band with a very distinctive approach. You can’t call it a folk band or a full folk-rock act, and you can’t call it an alternative, pop-rock, or post-rock – What is the band all about? Plain and simple, it is really about telling stories through music and letting the instruments be vocal and spontaneous from the get-go.
The band’s latest album, Circle Divine, is a combination of various influences, ranging from rock to folk, progressive, and pretty much everything in between. The opener, 5-4-O, is a beautifully distinctive track with a lot to offer. The song kicks off with a bright and melodic sound, and it later delves into a lush, dreamy soundscape with a very spontaneous flow.
The second track, “Bourrèe Inkarnation,” is one of the most unique songs on the album. The compositional style has echoes of jazz and funk, while the band retains its proggy folk-rock overtones throughout the main melody. The title track itself begins with a mesmerizing acoustic guitar arpeggio and a gentle yet decisive rhythmic pattern that enhances the sense of drama underneath the main guitar hook. The song takes off in a dreamy 3/4 (well, or 6/8, depending on how you count it!) pattern, which lends it a very special flavor throughout.
“Kaleidoskop” introduces some new elements, with the acoustic guitar blending in with a bass synth pattern and creating an even more distinctive approach that stands out for its multiple cascading rhythms and melodies. “Zirpelloise” takes us back to the bright and lush sounds of the beginning of this album, with a strong focus on exploring the boundaries of melodic folk-rock. “Mosaic” has a somber introduction, with a lonely brass sound paving the way to a tapestry of mesmerizing textures and a very beautiful folk melody with an energetic rhythm.
“Seven Flow” (not by chance the seventh song on the album) has a very cool 7/4 rhythm, which really allows all the instruments to fall in together and create almost a polyrhythmic flow when you sum all the parts together. “Odd Bourrèe” is another beautiful composition, which combines fiddle leads with some of the hardest-hitting guitar tones on the entire record!
“Moon Mazurka” follows right after, and it is almost the opposite vibe, with its more understated sound. The next-to-last song, “Uhrovec,” begins with a mid-tempo flow and then morphs into a more detailed arrangement. The last song on the album, Low Lights, has no real drums, but its rhythm is no less exciting and endearing, being a perfect conclusion to this album.
Circle Divine offers one of the most pleasant listening experiences we’ve ever heard from any fusion folk album. Stephan has been a significant influence on many Hurdy Gurdy artiest from the Medieval to the folk metal scene, and for a good reason. He’s a master of his craft, and what he and Florian Kolditz, Olaf Peters, and Florian Manuel Fügemann presents is a brilliant twist on various styles, which is innovative and unlike anything we’ve heard before.