Zelienople: Give It Up

A soundtrack to accompany gloomy hours trapped inside while rain drenches everything outside, Give It Up is clearly not music designed for sunny days. Zelienople's latest presents forty-six minutes of ghostly spell-casting by the Chicago-based trio of percussionist Mike Weis, guitarist-vocalist Matt Christensen, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Harding. The material breathes naturally, as one might expect it would considering that the songs were recorded in Weis's basement during the winter of 2008-09. Beneath the surface of the music's semi-controlled surface an impassioned heart beats, something audible in many songs when desperation intrudes upon the twilight stillness. A piece such as “All I Want Is Calm” argues that a typical Zelienople track might better be characterized as incantation rather than conventional song.

The album gets underway via the slow-burning “Aging,” replete with a vocal alternating between narcoleptic murmurs and desperate pleas (“How did we get this way?”), a funeral lounge cymbal pattern, and creeping guitar atmospherics—in the Zelienople universe, nothing makes more sense than setting sail with a nightmare. A softly galloping percussive pattern lifts the energy level a notch in “Can't Stop,” and the band follows suit by delivering a lively performance as it navigates the song's psychedelic haze; shuddering guitars and vocals are audible despite the cloudy blanket that coats the song. The group intersperses a few instrumentals amidst the vocal pieces (phantom voices rise from scattered crypts during the organ-fueled death ambient of “Water Saw,” and wind briefly whips up a blinding sandstorm in “Dust Bowl”), and when it does veer closer to more conventional song form (as happens during “I Can Put All My Faith In Her”), it does so without compromising its hushed vocal style and crepuscular sound design. It's also worth noting that initial copies of the vinyl edition come with accompaning CD featuring the score to Donald Prokop's short film Gone.

January 2010