Ilian Tape Founders Zenker Brothers Deliver Stunning Sophomore Album "Cosmic Transmission" [REVIEW]
Updated: Feb 27
The Munich-based duo and creators of the Ilian Tape imprint return for their second album, one that prides itself in production maturity and growth within the last decade.
One of Germany's greatest musical exports over the last decade has to be Ilian Tape. The world-renowned label boasts a diverse crew of artists that force listeners to rethink how they perceive modern club music; techno and breakbeat meet lush ambient soundscapes and raw emotion simply unheard anywhere else on this planet.
The originators are none other than Marco and Dario of the Zenker Brothers, a Munich-based sibling duo commanding Ilian Tape's sound since its inception in 2007. Within those 13 years, the brothers have brought in household club music names such as Skee Mask and Walton to release some of my favorite music of all time - that is not an exaggeration. I sometimes wonder if the duo could have predicted how overall impactful their label would be to electronic music without somehow looking into the future.
Initially beginning their careers as DJs, then moving onto production by the early 2010s, the Zenkers finally released their first album in 2015. At this time, about eight years after its birth, Ilian Tape was already flourishing, with its acclaimed cast of musicians pushing sounds from Germans club to its furthest boundaries and dealing tracks that serve as low-end weapons for DJs around the globe. It was only a year later that Skee Mask released his debut album and nearly changed the label's direction into bringing a more emotional alternative to the club, done by fusing warm pads full of ambiance effortlessly to the flagship bass and breaks the label was already known for. With their second full-length project, the Zenkers pay tribute to what makes their beloved imprint so obsessively special.
Cosmic Transmissions is the seventh full-length album released on Ilian Tape and ingeniously captures the essence of the label in its entirety. From the beginning of the record, we are met with tranquil and almost nostalgic emotions through When Nothing Is Safe, an ambient song that wastes no time in setting the mood. We then get a glimpse of the Zenkers' range of production with something unheard from them: a percussive dubstep track Who's In Control, minimal in its roots while still showcasing their moody synth work.
The middle of the album feels on par with Ilian Tape's recent discography, where each song can double as a club banger and complex piece of sonic work. Natural Connection stood out with its long ambient intro and masterful progression into a rhythmic dancefloor anthem. Immediately following it is Sphere Force, a jungle-oriented track that has an acidic bassline that feels like it came from some dusty hardware in their studio, adding unique character to it. The record then takes an unexpected turn with Transforming Well, bringing a groovy force of trip-hop into the equation.
The final few tracks of the album touch on more of a drum-less, ambient techno side of their production - one that has been explored more in recent times and comparable to the likes of Barker's latest album. One For All does that incredibly well with all the clever ambient pads building up to a catchy synth pattern with minimal low-end. The record finally wraps up with Transcending, a higher-speed track full of fun synths and a bouncy bassline.
With every full-length album Ilian Tape releases, it feels like they strike a new milestone; the Zenker Brothers continue that with Cosmic Transmission. Where most of the label specializes in clean and pristine production, the Zenkers have delivered a record that feels more raw and organically made - its grittiness coming from hardware, inimitable through digital production. Their attention to detail is almost astounding; they are also unafraid to touch upon various tempos, so long that it moves the listener physically and emotionally. Sitting near the very top of the best albums of 2020 along with Andrea's debut released in April on the label, Cosmic Transmission is the Zenkers Brothers' magnum opus and one of Ilian Tape's standout releases in their fabled history.
Cosmic Transmission is out now on all major music platforms; the release can also be supported directly by purchasing it on Bandcamp.
"We are proud to present our second album “Cosmic Transmission”. In another time it felt like, only an unpredictable extreme event could change the way we choose to live together. Now it feels so crazy, it can be overwhelming, but always remember we are just a tiny micro spaceship traveling through a gigantic universe. When nothing is safe, all is possible. We are one – one love. M&D"