Bay area producer/synth wielder Lindsay Olsen’s work as a planetary scientist may have informed the spacy nature of her solo project Salami Rose Joe Louis, but with Zdenka 2080, the celestial pop of earlier albums unfolds into a larger chronicle of sci-fi themes and whimsical electronic delights. Over the course of 22 wobbly miniatures, the album loosely tells the story of a dystopian future where the earth has been ravaged by the consequences of corporate greed. Olsen originally drafted the somewhat bleak tale on paper before translating it into music, and the final 22 pieces of Zdenka 2080 were whittled down from over 200 song sketches. The storyline of Zdenka 2080 isn’t as implicit as the warm, insular sound world Olsen skillfully crafts over the course of the album. Bouncing quickly between styles on brief pieces that rarely get past the two-minute mark, the chapters of the story can take the form of cartoonish kitschy interludes ("Octagonal Room"), lonely bedroom R&B ("Sitting with Thoughts"), or futuristic pop somewhere between Stereolab, Broadcast, and Sun Ra ("Nostalgic Montage," "Cosmic Dawn/Eighth Dimension"). Zdenka 2080 is the first Salami Rose Joe Louis album for the Brainfeeder label, an imprint curated by electronic innovator and alien thinker Flying Lotus. Olsen is a perfect fit for the label, as her heady pop impulses are often cut short by abstract beats, with pieces like the stumbling instrumental "Drifting" fitting the particular aesthetic of experimental post-hip-hop beatmaking Flying Lotus helped define. The sounds and emotional current of the album change at almost every turn, but the quick shifts gel even when moving from stony, pitch-shifted spoken word diatribes to gorgeous new age synth tones. Olsen pulls all of this off with a light touch. Weird, warped, and somehow playful while presenting songs about earthlings grappling with a dying planet, Zdenka 2080 constructs a universe of its own. It’s a wonderfully strange galaxy to get lost in.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas