Shimmer Synthpop, Experimental Zen Hander A brief history of Zen Hander starts with founder Artemio Hernandez, a San Antonio native who began the project when he was twenty years old in 2014. Originally named Artemis, the intended bedroom act morphed into a live underground act after being invited to play at a poetry night. However, in late 2016 Hernandez let the project fade away citing mental health issues. In 2019, Hernandez decided it was time to make music again - this time under the name of Zen Hander. In the three years that passed, Hernandez explored industrial, noise, body music, and new beat to its full extension. As he began to get back into live shows, Covid-19 hit. Rather than wasting his creative energy, he used it to put out his self-titled debut EP "Zen Hander" in July of 2020. A year following that, Zen Hander is back with his follow-up "Shimmer". What is immediately noticeable about Zen Hander's creativity is that he is a minimalist. The first track on "Shimmer", 'Mistrust', is lo-fi EBM based track complete with bits of static noise. It gives the illusion that this track is much older than what it might be, as if it were found on an old eight-track and was just brought back to life in the modern age. I feel as if this antique sound effect could have been reduced some as the static crunches on bass pulsations can be overbearing at times. I also found the segment at the two-minute and thirty-seven mark to be questionable; it sound as if someone is ripping fabric right next to my ear. It lasts for only a few seconds, but I always found myself cringing at that moment. Despite my complaints, the minimal song is decent for what it sets out to do. There's an air of creepiness to the track as well with its silence. Zen Hander's vocals are alright for the genre, which sound like power-spoken words with a slight tune to them. At times, however, Zen Hander can sounds as if he's running away from the mic way too soon. The next track 'Sleep Stage' is an instrumental piece once again homing in on new beat and EBM territory. There's an overlaying electronic line that sounds like something out of 90s hip-hop alongside bits of static crunch, nightmarish laughter, and other wonky samples. Elements of synthpop play in 'Blood & Gold' but there's an experimental nature to it. What sounds like a phone call from a sixteen-bit video game breathes life into the song, and later on grim and deep synths give the track an element of despair. 'Spending Power' heads back into punchy EBM territory. The main complaints I had about Zen Hander's vocals on 'Mistrust' are erased in this song; I feel as if Hernandez commits to the mic rather than sounding like he decides to back away from the mic mid-line. The sound palette on 'Scratchy Smooth' wasn't too my taste; it sounds as if brief zaps of electricity are being shot out at random intervals throughout the track and I wasn't much a fan. I felt much the same about 'Black Rainbow'. While I enjoy the lo-fi sound on "Shimmer", 'Black Rainbow' took it down another notch to the point a lot of the sounds were buried under a layer of demo structure. The final song on the EP, 'Home Watcher' is a fine darkwave inspired ballad that's proper gloomy and drab; well done on this one. Coming off of "Shimmer" I am rather impressed with what Hernandez is doing with Zen Hander. Obviously, there's room to grow. His experimental nature can lead Zen Hander astray from their stronger mechanics such as on 'Scratchy Smooth'. But when Zen Hander utilized his experimental nature and new beat influences in proper form, such as on 'Mistrust' and 'Spending Power', then he really rocks. I'm excited for the future of Zen Hander and can't wait to see him explode further into the scene. Six-and-a-half out of ten! This review was commissioned through our Ko-fi page. 350
Brutal Resonance

Zen Hander - Shimmer

6.5
"Alright"
Released off label 2021
A brief history of Zen Hander starts with founder Artemio Hernandez, a San Antonio native who began the project when he was twenty years old in 2014. Originally named Artemis, the intended bedroom act morphed into a live underground act after being invited to play at a poetry night. However, in late 2016 Hernandez let the project fade away citing mental health issues. In 2019, Hernandez decided it was time to make music again - this time under the name of Zen Hander. In the three years that passed, Hernandez explored industrial, noise, body music, and new beat to its full extension. As he began to get back into live shows, Covid-19 hit. Rather than wasting his creative energy, he used it to put out his self-titled debut EP "Zen Hander" in July of 2020. A year following that, Zen Hander is back with his follow-up "Shimmer". 

What is immediately noticeable about Zen Hander's creativity is that he is a minimalist. The first track on "Shimmer", 'Mistrust', is lo-fi EBM based track complete with bits of static noise. It gives the illusion that this track is much older than what it might be, as if it were found on an old eight-track and was just brought back to life in the modern age. I feel as if this antique sound effect could have been reduced some as the static crunches on bass pulsations can be overbearing at times. I also found the segment at the two-minute and thirty-seven mark to be questionable; it sound as if someone is ripping fabric right next to my ear. It lasts for only a few seconds, but I always found myself cringing at that moment. Despite my complaints, the minimal song is decent for what it sets out to do. There's an air of creepiness to the track as well with its silence. Zen Hander's vocals are alright for the genre, which sound like power-spoken words with a slight tune to them. At times, however, Zen Hander can sounds as if he's running away from the mic way too soon. 

The next track 'Sleep Stage' is an instrumental piece once again homing in on new beat and EBM territory. There's an overlaying electronic line that sounds like something out of 90s hip-hop alongside bits of static crunch, nightmarish laughter, and other wonky samples. Elements of synthpop play in 'Blood & Gold' but there's an experimental nature to it. What sounds like a phone call from a sixteen-bit video game breathes life into the song, and later on grim and deep synths give the track an element of despair. 

'Spending Power' heads back into punchy EBM territory. The main complaints I had about Zen Hander's vocals on 'Mistrust' are erased in this song; I feel as if Hernandez commits to the mic rather than sounding like he decides to back away from the mic mid-line. The sound palette on 'Scratchy Smooth' wasn't too my taste; it sounds as if brief zaps of electricity are being shot out at random intervals throughout the track and I wasn't much a fan. I felt much the same about 'Black Rainbow'. While I enjoy the lo-fi sound on "Shimmer", 'Black Rainbow' took it down another notch to the point a lot of the sounds were buried under a layer of demo structure. The final song on the EP, 'Home Watcher' is a fine darkwave inspired ballad that's proper gloomy and drab; well done on this one. 

Coming off of "Shimmer" I am rather impressed with what Hernandez is doing with Zen Hander. Obviously, there's room to grow. His experimental nature can lead Zen Hander astray from their stronger mechanics such as on 'Scratchy Smooth'. But when Zen Hander utilized his experimental nature and new beat influences in proper form, such as on 'Mistrust' and 'Spending Power', then he really rocks. I'm excited for the future of Zen Hander and can't wait to see him explode further into the scene. Six-and-a-half out of ten! 

This review was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
Jul 03 2021

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Steven Gullotta

info@brutalresonance.com
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.

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Started in spring 2009, Brutal Resonance quickly grew from a Swedish based netzine into an established International zine of the highest standard.

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