I always look forward to – and dread in equal measure – the month of April. Especially since moving to LA, it seems like each year I’m left with precious little time to myself. I like my me time. It allows me to concentrate on personal projects. Like this blog. Yet there is always a week or two or three in which I’m stretched thin at my job (those evil three letters “RSD” come to mind). Either the week before or the week after work peaks, I typically drive out to Las Vegas for NAB. Usually for week or two after that I’ve got birthday obligations. It sounds like first world problems I’m sure, but I place a lot of importance on having time to myself. Ugh, the whole social aspect of trying to plan birthday events brings with it a unique set of stressful circumstances. You know…two friends don’t talk to each other so you have to make two sets of plans, friends in different parts of town never want to drive too far so you have to have multiple nights spread out across the city so everyone can feel included. Trust me, it sounds like a luxury but it’s really not. Or I’m incapable of seeing the silver lining in any situation. That’s probably the most likely reality here. I’ve got a good life and yet all I see is the stress and negativity.
Either way, I’ve got an insanely busy week at work filled with lots of extra hours and late nights coming up. I’ll try to keep up this semi-regular post schedule. When I’m in Vegas for NAB I might have time to post some photos or a mix tape. Once I return, my mother will have already arrived in town with a friend. They’re staying in Santa Monica, the most inconvenient possible place to stay while here. My birthday is the 25th, I’m sure that week will not provide much relaxation, sleep, or sobriety. Once May begins I’ll have a little more time to myself. I wouldn’t anticipate more than a couple posts from now until the end of the month.
I was incredibly humbled/honored to receive an email from Matt Christensen of Zelienople recently. He mentioned that he’s been recording some music on his own lately and offered to share it with me. He offered a chance to hear his latest solo effort, Adult Books so of course I jumped at the opportunity. If I had to list the three bands from the last eleven years (or as long as I’ve been blogging) that have consistently impressed me the most, I think Zelienople might be at the top of the list. White Hills would be close behind, and then maybe Emeralds. Once you get into the Grouper / Chelsea Wolfe / Tim Hecker world things get murkier. But, seriously. I ranked His Hers #20, Give It Up #2, The World Is A House On Fire #2, and Show Us The Fire #2 on all the Top 100 Albums lists they qualified for. To say that I truly love the music Matt, Brian Harding, and Mike Weiss have made in the ten years since I first heard Stone Academy would be the understatement of all understatements. Whatever your descriptor of choice, “Doom pop,” “drone folk,” blissed-out slowcore…Zelienople have carved out a sound that as totally unique as it is beautiful.
Aquarius Records first hipped me to Stone Academy with their blurb about a sound fit perfectly into my world at the time of its release. It used all the right descriptors that piqued my interest. And since I was focusing heavily on improvisational, drone-y music at the time I wanted to immerse myself in what others with similar objectives were producing. Any AQ review that included lines like “horse tranquilizers,” “barely there,” or “dissolves into nothing” would lead me to seek out a record. I still remember reading the line, “quietly and contemplatively drifting along, shimmering in a druggy haze of warbly ephemeral folks and whirring ambient rumble” and internally (probably while stoned) shouting to myself, “Sold!” I had to download it illegally at the time, but then Jefre from Tarentel gave me a copy of the CD and the LP when I saw him and I’ve cherished ’em both to this day.
Not that I expected any less, but I’m happy to say that Adult Books’ half-dozen songs are as haunting, alluring, and engaging as any formal Zelienople record. I’ve spent the past ten days or so listening to it, unpacking it, and getting lost in it. The most recognizable trait might be Christensen’s reverb-drenched vocals, which any fan of his band will pick up almost instantly. That aside, there are several elements that set this record apart from recent Zelienople releases. The lazy (plaintive?), distant piano and the lush, Sketches Of Spain-style horns remind me of how good The Drift were at their best (ie. Memory Drawings), or to take things back a little further, those two essential Talk Talk records (Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock). To my ears I’m hearing more programmed effects than I believe are common on Zelienople records, but sometimes fresh ears hear nuances more clearly than they can recall familiar sounds from the past.
The six pieces here are not so much a collection of songs as they are is a series of movements. To listen to Adult Books is to float between moods. Following the first two tracks, “Starving II” is built upon what sounds like either a decaying reel of tape, a passing rain shower, or a very disjointed tide moving in. “How Did You Find Me” with its digital trills and simple acoustic guitar strums is probably the tune most likely to appear on a Zelienople record. “Unwind Us” offers a harrowing conclusion, and I mean that in the best possible way. Eeriness in drone-heavy records is a quality I seek, and most everything Christensen records provides ghostly qualities. It is music that begs for your attention, and once you’ve complied it’s hard to wrench yourself free.
While not available on any physical format, Adult Books is more than worth the $5 for a full download. If you’re already a fan of Zelienople it should be considered required listening. While the full band draws comparisons to groups like Slowdive, The Dead C, My Bloody Valentine, and Starving Weirdos, Christensen’s solo work here is more reminiscent of Mark Hollis, the later Tarentel records, and Nurse With Wound’s Shipwreck Radio series.
Monday’s Sunday Mix Tape – Number 403
You Can Count On Us
01. Mamiffer – By The Light Of My Body
02. Matt Christensen – Anaheim
03. Chelsea Wolfe – Flame
04. Dead To A Dying World – Sick & Sunder
05. Flying Saucer Attack – In The Light Of Time
06. Tim Hecker – Castrati Stack
07. Bobby Brown – I Must Be Born
08. Ben Frost – Sleeping Beauty
09. Akron/Family – There’s So Many Colors
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