If you've seen Zombie Zombie play live recently you will know that the Parisian duo have a distinctive sense of humour. Cosmic Neman's arch drawling between song chat has nothing on the choreographed moment when twin drummers slowly stand, and cross sticks, in apparent deadpan neo-pagan ritual, before releasing the seismic volleys of "Black Paradise." That it all looks a little ramshackle (there are no cowls, no stage-set; it's just three music geeks messing around) only adds to the charm.
While much of what we file as cosmic disco often comes off smug, hip, emotionally arid even, Zombie Zombie embrace the comic aspects of their retro influences—the Radiophonic Workshop, sci-fi B movies, Italo disco, Jean Michel Jarre, Mediterranean prog rock. They camp it up with new age titles like "The Wisdom of Stones (Do You Believe In?)," and enigmatic over-arching concepts. Rituels D'une Nouvelle Monde is, supposedly, inspired by apocalyptic ideas of mankind having to colonise abstract worlds. They play, ironically, with electronic music's hippy, trippy pre-history, and, in the psychic space that such tomfoolery creates, produce music which blindsides you with its seriousness.
For there is nothing glib about Zombie Zombie. They may operate within a framework of knowing fun, but even at its most bombastic, Rituels is a patently sincere attempt to breathe new life into their dusty influences. The album (produced by Joakim, who helped closely develop its smoothly reconciled digital-analogue sound) is tight, cohesive and deserves to see Neman and Etienne Jaumet elevated to cosmic disco's top-tier, alongside Lindstrom et al.
Between the swinging, reverberating African percussion and the stately, synthetic orchestration of the opening track, to the brooding drama of the aforementioned "Black Paradise," there is barely a duff note. And plenty of variation: "Illuminations" is Krautrock as US cop show car chase; "Watch the World from a Plane" a mournful miasma of precise, delicate beauty; while "L'Age D'Or" recasts Radioactivity-era Kraftwerk in a vital, rhythmically muscular context. The potential break-out star is "Rocket No9," an improbable and remarkable fusion of strutting cybernetic electro bass, wild jazz drumming and a mid-track alto-sax break of exhilarating ferocity. Who needs to colonise new worlds when Zombie Zombie exist in this one?