Chicago trio (formerly quartet) Zelienople have been one of the most inventive groups in the post-rock firmament over the past decade, if not one of the better known. Their latest release is a limited double three inch CD on the new Under the Spire imprint. It features a couple of twenty plus minute instrumentals. Recorded live to tape, these may or may not be improvised pieces. The methods of construction always seem to be more important to artists themselves rather than their audience for whom what matters most is the music they’re hearing. I’ve always felt that an emphasis on process over the end result to be incredibly self-indulgent.
So. Improvised or not, what’s important is what’s been captured. No guitars, no samples – these two drone-based pieces were hewn using synths, flute, sax and percussion. “Misty”, the band claim, was inspired by the big orchestral scores of MGM and Disney movies. I don’t know what they were on when they were at the cinema, but it sure wasn’t popcorn. The track is underpinned by a reverberating drone, across which snatches of melodies waft and weave their way. Halfway through, it opens out into the light, developing Floydian space-rock tendencies pierced by blasts of fogbound baritone sax.
“Drug Legs” is inspired, much more believably, by the sci-fi noir of John Carpenter (indeed, they teasingly suggest that he’s involved in the track in some capacity). It opens with a serene synth drone that echoes (sorry) the Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The sax breaks into short melodic bursts, whilst the flute eerily looms in and out, sounding drugged. Almost imperturbably, the mood gets darker. The comforting drone is gone without you noticing, replaced by a heartbeat pulse and ominous, unidentifiable percussive sounds. Something. Very. Bad. Lurks. Here. But there is no dramatic pay-off. You’re left twisting in the wind, fate unsealed.
Hollywood is very limited – 100 copies in physical form. Whether downloads are / will be available, I don’t know. It would be a shame if these pieces were to reach a very small audience. Both are richly rewarding. They show that music can be experimental and daring without being inaccessible. “Drug Legs” is particularly good.
1 Misty 21:31
2 Drug Legs 21:26