Artist: Zen-Kei
Title: The Punisher
Label: Great Stuff Recordings
By: Antonella Sirec | 8 September 2006
  • A1: Original Mix
  • A2: Andrea Doria Mix
  • B1: Arnaud Rebotini 'Black Strobe' Mix

Zen-Kei "The Punisher"

Out Now on Great Stuff Recordings

In an industry that sometimes lacks originality; it's always refreshing to listen to artists that push forward a particular sound while unashamedly maintaining a dance infused vibe in their productions. Following on from the success of 'The Blast', Zen-Kei return with a track that’s not only going to turn the heads of dance music fans but happily keeping their feet moving. With the release of 'The Punisher', the duo behind the Zen-Kei name, Ramon Zenker and Tom Keil, further establish their name as a force to be reckoned with in terms of forward thinking, dancefloor friendly productions.

The original version of 'The Punisher' begins on somewhat of a sly note as beats are introduced and merged with glitchy synths and bleepy effects. It's when the reverberating guitar riff is initiated that the track takes on a life of its own. Combined with a fuller beat and a teasing melody, its title, 'The Punisher', takes on an aptly named appeal. Throughout the track, the tune climbs and declines in feel at an alluring pace, all the while interspersing that guitar riff at precise points. This is a very interesting tune to say the least and is a great example of musical imagination. The treatment of the guitar riff is what really makes this track a success in that it's quite organic but never used to overpower the melody or drown out any of the synths or sound effects. It was with each subsequent listen that I found more interesting nuances that lay underneath which changed the nature of the track every time.

The Andrea Doria mix takes 'The Punisher' down a path to darker levels in sound. Beginning with a crash of higher pitched synths and glitchy effects, the bass is drawn into the track but this time round is given a thick, atmospheric treatment. It is this bass that now controls the structure and feel of the tune with the guitar riff no longer present. Instead, the melody remains on a sublime key scale while interspersed with mini breakdowns that, while quite chaotic in sound, add an interesting element to the tune's sound scape. If anything, those varying intervals are like the sound of breaking glass but more intense. From an overall perspective, listening to the Andrea Doria mix reminds me of walking down into the pit of a pitch-black cave and the sense of foreboding you feel of the unknown. I, for one, kept looking over my shoulder expecting something to happen. As such, I absolutely love its ominous qualities and when played in a club environment, I can only imagine this unexpectedly twisting a few heads on any given dancefloor.

The final remix of the 'The Punisher' comes in the shape of the Arnaud Rebotini 'Black Strobe' remix. A less intense interpretation of the original and far less ominous then that of the Andrea Doria mix, this particular version is a languorous affair. With this rendition, the bpm's have been slowed down considerably while the melody takes a more front seat position. As such, the tune continues to roll along on its own slated groove. It's quite a minimal interpretation without being sparse in sound in that its varying musical parts are simpler and less layered compared to the previous two mixes. Much like the original version, it too peaks and dips at varying points in conjunction with a few interesting sound effects to add some spice. The longer breakdown adds a sense of drama and sets up the return of the bass effortlessly. Quite hypnotic in the overall scheme, it starts to peter off slowly towards the end but leaving you wanting more.

Three refreshing and extremely appealing versions of Zen-Kei's 'The Punisher' makes for this release to be one of the most interesting I've heard so far this year. Whether the guitar laden original, the sinister Andrea Doria mix or the slow burning Arnaud Rebotini 'Black Strobe' mix, all are as enjoyable as the other. There isn't one particular version that I favour, as all are equally interesting and entertaining. Having already been a fan of Zen-Kei's previous production, 'The Blast', this was a pleasure to listen to and never once disappointed me. 'The Punisher' is great example of how a piece of electronic music can be original without forgoing its dancefloor appeal. And while I dislike the term "intelligent dance music", this particular composition fits into that description perfectly. 'The Punisher' is definitely not for the feint hearted!

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