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Zero Times Everything — Sound of Music
((Not on label) Skrymir 08, 2021, 2CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-10-29
For their second album, Zero Times Everything presents a substantial double-CD with well over two hours worth of music, and the range of sound is even greater than what was presented on their debut. From peaceful ambience to bone-crushing industrial rhythms to subtle grooves to sheer noise, listening to Sound of Music sometimes seems more like listening to a compilation album than the work of a single group. The result is both fascinating and frustrating, jerking the listener back and forth, defying expectations at every change of track. I don’t regard this as a necessarily bad thing, however, and many adventurous listeners should enjoy this set. It comes off as a kind of cross between King Crimson, Heldon, and Merzbow in overall impact, though many other factors are involved as well. This is the kind of music that is more assembled than performed, constructed of sounds with varying sources, though of course ZXE does in fact play live. But we’re looking at a recording of sounds in preserved form, so the performance aspect is ambiguous at best. There are a few tracks that sound like pieces of rock music: “Blisterine” is one of the, with a great riff on bass and guitar, rather like something that could have appeared on Fripp’s Exposure album; “Tears in the Waterfall” has a gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar backing and a pretty melody on highly sustained electric guitar; their cover of Eno’s “Third Uncle” is quite recognizable, though they put their own noisy spin on the tune. “Die Nacht Ist Leben” starts out in relatively conventional form with electric piano chords and chiming guitar, with a vocal part sung in German, but over the course of its 19 minutes, morphs into an intense, squalling hurricane of effected guitar over a thumpy industrial rhythm, then a series of different combinations of the elements, along with spoken voices saying the title and other phrases. Of the tracks that are decidedly not song-oriented, “Two Dead Stars Falling…” is an interesting example. It starts slowly and quietly with long tones, a piano meandering in space, with odd percussive noises in the background, then a guitar floats in with a heavy wash of reverb. The sounds weave around each other, picking up bell-like echoes (along with perhaps actual bell sounds), building up to a dissonant chord that halts all proceedings. A distorted bass joins in, and there’s an extended chaotic interlude of disjointed sounds which mostly seem to be the guitar processed into insanity. The bass contributes something that’s almost a riff, but it eventually drops out and the last few minutes are similar to the beginning. “Lux Aeterna” is over 25 minutes long, an extended meditation on ways the human race could be wiped out, complete with narration presenting a Top Ten list of possibilities. But the music is not apocalyptic, more melancholy, with swells of string-like chords and chiming guitar arpeggios — at least for a while. Other sampled voices come and go as the backing goes through changes. Around the halfway mark, a heavy industrial rock riff blasts in, only to disappear for a bit. Back and forth we go between these poles, working into a sort of guitar solo backed by glitchy electronic noises. Where does it go from there? Check it out yourself and see — I think you’ve got the idea by now.
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