Those familiar with Zoe Burke’s work may know her as “Cheetah” of Baltimore power electronics project Reverse Baptism or the creative force behind the psychedelic, grotesque Sanpaku Rose comic series, but in Sapphogeist, her new solo venture, Burke takes all the nuanced strangeness, discomfort, and coldness of the world and externalizes it as industrial pop. Her debut cassette, a self-titled venture on the consistently excellent No Rent Records, positions her not only as an exciting voice, but a vital one.
Sapphogeist begins with a vocal exposition: Burke brandishes her impressive pipes like a cherished weapon in a choral greeting—both warning and invitation—before luring the listener into her world of ear worms and unflinching satire. Within the first song, she laments, or perhaps just extols, the strange correlation of success as a presidential candidate and uncanny phallic resemblance. It’s an absurd moment, surreptitiously delivered, indicative of Burke’s outlook.
Her voice isn’t the only thing she has going for herself, either. Each instrumental, expertly orchestrated and executed, has its own catchy synth melodies, bass harmonies, and tinseled layers. Though rooted in industrial instrumentation, Sapphogeist isn’t a release made for isolation, as the songs are crafted with such tight songwriting they seem cordial, familiar, and friendly. And while the tape is perfect for listening alone, frankly, it’s hard not to dance, or at least head-bob, along—not to say dancing with yourself can’t be fun.
Throughout the cassette, Burke nods to pop culture, at one point appropriating a Lana Del Rey melody and at another finishing with a Frank Ocean recording. It’s at these junctions—more than elsewhere—that the listener is reminded of Burke’s noise background, but in a niche market that is over-saturated in releases by angry white men with a love for true crime, fascistic imagery, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man (which is a great movie, by the way), she turns the formula on its head.
I try to avoid using the first-person singular pronoun in reviews, but this tape is so goddamn good, and I think you’d be a fool to pass it up. Totally essential jams in an edition of 100. Don’t be the only one of your friends to get left behind.
A2) Sacred Nation
B3) A Lie