Zenjungle & Tunedin52
Tales From Urban






There is that tendency in terms of collaborations to make them loose, short and exclusive; call them fleeting visits, one-time opportunities or experiments, there is only a small window or frame that allows these undertakings to go as planned. Zenjungle & Tunedin52 have collaborated multitudinous times over the years and will likely continue to do so. Zenjungle is Phil Gardelis from Athens, Greece, a saxophonist and synth aficionado whose multiplex of mysteries, travelogs and distance are frequently featured on this site. Tunedin52 is multi-instrumentalist John Daly from Ballinafad, Ireland. He plays various kinds of stringed instruments, percussion devices and is quite a bit fond of deconstructionist layers that are otherwise found in the Glitch genre. The duo’s latest and fifth album Tales From Urban sports seven tracks and is available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp. While no Glitch-heavy critter per se, the album is indeed progressive in two ways, as it not only gyres between Ambient, Glitch and Drone and some crazy genre called Jazz, but also floats away from its point of origin – the gateway to the city – into the open field, different climatic zones included. Freely floating and with minimal editing, Tales from Urban exudes, exhales, extracts and expires, but until the latter is the case, the listening subject is in for a treat that is more closely inspected in the following paragraphs.


If the – admittedly crowded in lieu of secluded – film noir setting of the front artwork is to be applied to the unfolding surfaces, there is no better way to start the album than with the clandestinely lactic I Saw Some Ghosts In The City. Foggy synths and processed stringed instruments create a nebula that is emaciated but ethereal. Zenjungle’s saxophone scythes through the blurred vortex, its soft reverb simmering amid Tunedin52’s baritone guitar reticulation. The mood is curiously murky yet pristine; this dichotomy backs a twofold interpretation of this simultaneously being a playful bona fide bird’s eye perspective and an earthbound acoustic synthorama. Distant traffic noise, prolonged low frequency bursts, interstices of lucid placidness and adjacent niches of contemplation: the surreal opener has ‘em all. Sleeping In Traffic meanwhile augments the concept of said surrealism, now unwinding gorgeously plinking acoustic guitar vesicles, shawm-like Middle Eastern saxophone helixes and ligneous clattering. The tension is revved up, melodies are few and far between but accidental, Jericho-esque sting(er)s and enigmatic synth-oid backdrops increase both the perceived heat and the concept of a tunnel vision… completely without conventional beats or histrionic Hollywood clichés.


The subsequent We’ll Return To Another Place delineates a different Oriental spotlight. Not featuring any pentatonicism at all, Phil Gardelis and John Daly rather interpolate the soothing and seething setting via elasticized guitar blotches whose thermal heat amplifies the concept of being situated in a melting pot or humid desert. Desperado guitar adjuvants, snake charmer illuminants as spawned by the saxophone and oddly metalized faux chirps that are more akin to Space-Age laser sounds than their natural counterparts round off the sulfurous endemics of this flittering mirage… the Tartarean apotheosis in the final minute notwithstanding. The following Shadows then adds a pinch of millennial Glitch to the scenery via a bit-crushed granuloma of argentine static noise-alloyed guitar chords and staccato salvos of blebs. Zenjungle’s saxophone is cloned and stacked on this piece, leading to a heterodyned susurration of uneasiness and allure. The noise particles are boosted as well, now resembling alkaline asbestos cesspools that resemble screeching electric guitars. Once the coruscation of the wind chimes is added to the circumambience, Shadows is illumined and turns its crepuscular chromaticity to a dawn-invoking photometry.


The final three pieces are undoubtedly in a class of their own, for the duo decides to decrease protuberances, mayhems and decorticated endeavors in favor of wondrous melodies. Pavement Play is up next, undoubtedly the most languorous and mellow soundscape the duo comes up with. It remains an ignis fatuus though, probably due to its flickering shades of rustic ruralism as injected by John Daly’s acoustic guitar riverbed. The utterly vanillarific quiescence is not even opposed by Phil Gardelis’ saxophone pericarps. While they are certainly in the center, the encompassing stereo effect of the guitar is what holds this piece together, serving as the aural boundaries, keeping the intrinsics intact. A gorgeous tune, only infinitesimally murky. Afterwards, Timetouch embodies a fluttering cloistered courtyard ready for takeoff. The guitars resemble punchy lutes, ready to abscond and lift off into the aeriform sky. This partially Mediterranean aura again carries the whole track and adds a fibrillar flavor to the scenery, making this track a pristine and crunchy Ambient addendum, with the final Walking Into The Setting Sun serving as a mélange of fragile, rufescent tone sequences and quiet phases. Celestial and calcined at once, the title is self-explanatory, true, but the attached composition is indeed most fitting and an apt endpoint to the duo’s album.


Tales From Urban is, at the end of the day when the sunset phase is completed, the wrong title for the right album, or to say it differently, it is congruent and cohesive at first, but becomes more and more detached as the album progresses. This is good news! In the beginning, Zenjungle & Tunedin52 localize the megacity as the interesting focal point, with the opener moulding traffic noise and brazen parts into the aural air filled with saxophones and guitars. But sooner rather than later, two majestic side effects turn the work around and create a spatial/spacy zoetrope of locales that is undoubtedly disconnected from the sun-dappled asphalt lanes and concrete jungles of today. There is on the one hand a strikingly desiccate Eastern spirit in the air due to Phil Gardelis’ eclectic and occasionally convoluted saxophone cascades. Cautiously underlined and at times outshone by John Daly’s guitar-wise prestidigitation, the heat increases, the listener becomes harbored – or entrapped – in wastelands and tumular dunes. There are urban places within these regions, sure, but the album title does not ring true in these instances when the Occidental senses have an encounter with this album. Said tracks are still stellar. On the other hand, then, is the triptych of closure which makes for a superb Ambient experience! The tone sequences are rectilinear, tastefully streamlined and whitewashed. The crackling noises and effects are clearly reduced, making room for droning bliss and sumptuous layers (these include layers of nothingness aka silence). Tales From Urban is a multifaceted, Jazz-fueled Ambient work whose cityscape becomes increasingly distant as the duo progresses. A transcendental permutation.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 365: Zenjungle & Tunedin52 – Tales From Urban (2014). Originally published on Aug. 6, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.