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Zolder Ellipsis — Il Libro dei Tropi
(Lizard 196, 2024, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-06-14

Il Libro dei Tropi Cover art

The first Zolder Ellipsis album presented an appealing sound that combined elements of Frank Zappa with King Crimson, RIO, and spacy jazz. For their second effort, Il Libro dei Tropi, composer Tom Aldrich (keyboards) is joined by Sean Moran (guitar), Chad Langford (bass, vocals), Ivo Bol (synths, samplers), and Pierre Aeternus (drums), along with vocalist Esther Mugambi on two tracks. The music carries on from where they started, with inventive rhythmic and harmonic shifts to keep listeners engaged. This is the kind of odd-meter music that doesn’t fit in with the general vibe of math rock, instead leaning towards more of a chamber rock feeling. I really appreciate the fact that the band is tight but not so precise as to sound like the pieces have been digitally assembled — the impression is more jazzy even though the music is not what most people would call jazz. That’s an artificial categorization anyway, and another comparison might be Canterbury bands like Gilgamesh and National Health, where improvisation clearly plays a role but the compositions are meticulous and wide-ranging. This impression is heightened when Aldrich uses an electric piano sound, which in conjunction with Moran’s clean guitar tone forms a sort of modern day equivalent of Dave Stewart and Phil Miller. And then there’s a track like “Feel Like a Man,” which ventures into a warped odd-meter rock and roll with a gutsy organ part. “Brunette” flirts with surf rock, then drifts into some lovely acoustic guitar work for its middle section before returning to the groove. Mugambi’s vocals are spoken on “Lydian Riff” and sung on “The Purge,” adding a different element to the mix. All around, Il Libro dei Tropi is an engaging album that is complex yet accessible, entertaining yet worthy of deeper listening.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Zolder Ellipsis

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