Zopp

It’s long been understood that the Canterbury scene extends far beyond the geographic boundaries the Cathedral city that members of Caravan and Soft Machine once called home. The organic growth of the movement over the years has come to include bands from across Europe, Scandinavia, the USA, and even Japan, all judged to have an affinity to the sometimes whimsical rock and jazz-infused sound. Since 2020 another branch of the family tree has been added in the shape of Ryan Stevenson, the brains and musical force of nature behind Zopp, whose second album, //Dominion// was released earlier this year.

Based in Nottingham, Stevenson freely admits to having been smitten by the sound after he chanced upon Egg’s 1971 classic //The Polite Force// in his father’s album collection. It wasn’t so much that he chose the music but rather the music chose him, he says. “I think the appeal was that it was just a very spacey and very unusual sound world for me. I remember walking to school during my GCSE’s in 2005 listening to it and just loving it.”

Although Stevenson didn’t play an instrument at the time, such was his love of the other groups he rapidly discovered after falling headlong down the Canterbury-shaped rabbit hole, he was inspired to not only take up piano. Determined to create his own compositions, his self-confessed obsession ultimately culminated in his self-titled debut in 2020. A fan of The Tangent, he’d sent demos to The Tangent’s Andy Tillison who was able to give Stevenson advice on how to finish the record as well as contribute his own keyboards on two tracks. “I think, just mixing that album with him in 2019 I learned a lot from watching him work, especially mixing and production ideas,” says Stevenson.

To some extent the new album //Dominion// picks up where the debut left off. There is copious amounts of fuzz organ, rippling electric piano, tricky twists both in melody and time signatures, and the welcome blast of guesting saxes, flutes and French horns, adding at times something of a chamber ensemble feel. It’s all underpinned by Stevenson’s long-time collaborator, drummer Andrea Moneta, a fellow resident of Nottingham, and drummer with Italian prog outfit, Leviathan.

However, the biggest difference this time is Wilkinson adding lead vocals to all his other multi-instrumental skills. “I’m not a singer but I thought I’d give it a try. I think some non-vocalists are the most endearing because of the imperfections which can be beautiful and intriguing. Someone like Egg’s Mont Campbell. I love his voice. He’s not a vocalist but it’s got that quintessential English quality which I tried to do with this album.”

The album sales for //Dominion// have been so encouraging that Stevenson has decided to form a 5-piece touring version of Zopp. “I didn’t know Zopp was going to take off the way it has but it’s like anything, if you believe in something, then hopefully other people are going to resonate with it.”  SS

LINE-UP: Ryan W Stevenson: Hammond organ, mellotron, Hohner pianet, piano, electric pianos, acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar, vocals, Korg ms20, synthesizers, percussion, flute, field recordings, sound design. Andrea Moneta: Drums and cymbals. Plus guests

SOUNDS LIKE: A test tube filled with elements of Zappa, Egg, Stravinsky, National Health et al, whirled in a centrifuge and decanted into a psychedelic cocktail.

CURRENT RELEASE: //Dominion// is out on Flat Circle Records

WEBSITE: www.zopp.bandcamp.com

— Sid Smith

From "Limelight - Zopp" Prog Reprinted with permission.

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