Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WOI-AM Operating at Low Night Power, 91.7 KSUI (Iowa City) HD services are down

Zap Tura and the art of adapting

Bryon Dudley
IPR Studio One
Zap Tura’s Adaptasia release show is April 15 at xBk, 1159 24th St., Des Moines, with special guest Skyscraper. Doors at 7 pm, show at 8 pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $13 day of the show.

As joyous as some of the music sounds on Zap Tura’s second full-length album, Adaptasia, and as positive as Andrew Jones (Zap Tura’s songwriter and driving force) seems, the path to the album’s release has been anything but easy.

It began with Jones’ desire to create a more electronic-based sound, utilizing cheap samplers with broken buttons that required workarounds to operate them, and “not very good sounding'' drum machines - whatever he could get his hands on to make music with. Once the songs had basic structures, Jones contacted Des Moines producer Phil Young at Sonic Factory Studios, and the two got to work recreating the songs in the studio, and embellishing on them. The sessions had a bit of an improvisatory nature to them.

“However we would feel that day,” Jones said, “would guide what we worked on, how the songs would be arranged, and what we added to the songs.”

Samples from such diverse sources as TED Talks, Mormon choirs, and the “scat” preset on a Roland keyboard found their way into the tunes, but when production on the album was halfway complete, the pandemic struck, grinding the process to a halt for months.

“Working on the album had been my main reason for getting out of bed every day,” Jones said. “It was the main thing going on in my life, so I was pretty upset at first.”

Jones was determined to keep making progress, though, so he began recording things at home while Young would continue to work on the album separately, the two in frequent communication.

Jones eventually returned to the studio, and as they built and completed Adaptasia, talks about a release show led to Young and Jones deciding to play together for the occasion, along with drummer Joryn Brown. Young also expressed interest in producing a multimedia aspect to the show, incorporating video and lights interacting with the music, with each song having its own visual identity.

The resulting album is a dense, kaleidoscopic romp through pop music, the highly arranged and orchestrated kind made long ago by Brian Wilson, and carried on by groups like XTC, Björk, and Animal Collective. The second song on the record, “Echospace,” builds up steam with frenetic drumming, before exploding into a melodic fog that slowly clears and reveals nature sounds via field recordings. “Protector” has a good build as well, and ends with the good advice, “We just play piano and love hopscotch/Live a little.” Throughout the record, there is a feeling that you’re listening to an old time radio show being broadcast from another planet.

The album’s layered feeling rewards multiple listens, and the details it reveals are breathtaking. But this is well-thought-out song craftsmanship, so you never feel overwhelmed by the proceedings. The title, Adaptasia, is a made-up word, Jones says, describing how we all have to adapt to obstacles and changes, coupled with the sense of wonder one gets from life’s experiences in doing so, a feeling he compares to the Disney film “Fantasia.”

A November 2021 release show was booked at the Des Moines club xBk, but a supply chain issue delayed the shipment of the records from the vinyl plant. The show was rescheduled for January of 2022, but with the rise of the Omicron variant, and growing concerns over safety issues, was postponed again. A release show is now planned at xBk for April 15, with opener Skyscraper.

“I wish I could play the show right now,” Jones enthused. “The album is out, and I’m excited about it, and want that face-to-face reaction you don’t get when dropping music online. The show is being designed to be immersive, so that the listener feels like they’re bathing in the music.”

Zap Tura’s Adaptasia release show is April 15th at xBk, 1159 24th St., Des Moines, with special guest Skyscraper. Doors at 7 pm, show at 8 pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $13 day of the show.

Bryon Dudley has written about the Iowa music scene for the Des Moines Music Coalition, the Iowa Informer, Little Village, and now IPR Studio One (amongst others). He is passionate about Iowa music, and performs with his own bands: Strong Like Bear, Moonrabbit, Rockets of Desire and The Cherrypickers.