Zelienople: Hollywood
Under The Spire

Zelienople trio Brian Harding, Matt Christensen, and Mike Weis have chosen an odd title for their Hollywood release, as the two long-form pieces included on it hardly suggest either the elegant glamour or decadent underbelly of Tinsel Town and its star-studded community, so relentlessly stalked by paparazzi. The CD's tracks, “Misty” and “Drug Legs,” are, oddly enough, identical in duration, and though both were previously issued on separate three-inch CDs, they make a perfectly natural pair; whether they were or not, they certainly sound like productions born from the same creative outpouring. The two settings suggest that Zelienople has lost none of its creative spark over the years, as the listener is repeatedly drawn into alien interzones of endlessly mutating design.

“Misty” sees the group collectively birthing an amorphous, sustained drone that's pitched at the level of controlled howl. Razor-sharp fragments, blustery horns, and hand percussion patterns careen within a torrential mass that barrels forth with a seeming life of its own and that somehow manages to never quite go off the rails. Halfway through, the splintered presence of a horn pierces the haze in a way that calls to mind Jon Hassell, and the voodoo broil that accompanies it might be likened to the kind of Fourth World music often associated with the trumpeter. The material writhes in place as the muffled moan of a dying creature echoes across the industrial wasteland until bells and noise flourishes send the elements churning within a cymbal- and horn-laden vortex. “Drug Legs” perpetuates the first piece's disorienting attack with a droning black cloud and tinkling percussive sounds that slowly swell in size until bits of acidy synthesizer inexplicably surface alongside the meandering groan of a muffled horn. Things settle down slightly, almost as if Zelienople is replenishing its energy in preparation for the next go-round, until a strangulated horn accompanies the metallic sheets that shudder at the upper edges of the now-towering mass. “Drug Legs” eventually simmers down with a heartbeat rhythm and locomotive pitter-patter guiding the spent listener back to terra firma at the end of the mind-altering voyage through the galaxy. To Zelienople's credit, Hollywood seems to be as hard to pin down as mercury. While one can situate it within the ambient soundscaping genre, the release nevetherless carves out its own disturbed space within that ever-expanding universe.

November 2010