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Zelienople – Give it up

Label – Type (TYPE054)

Format – LP, CD

Country – UK

Released – 2009

Genre – Drone, Electronic, Rock

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Zelienople are a 3-piece band out of Chicago who primarily release dreamy, introspective drone music via the TYPE record label. I first became aware of them whilst clicking around the TYPE website, having previously been a fan of several other acts and releases on the label – Peter Broderick, Helios/Goldmund, Xela and Richard Skelton to name a few. Many of the artists on TYPE are of the electronic music persuasion, but recently the label has expanded its roster to include a larger variety of musicians, encompassing folk, rock and modern classical. I regularly check out the label website and have been pleased to find that the efforts towards diversity have not compromised the overall quality of the music on offer; in fact it continues to improve.

Give it up is Zelienople’s sixth proper album, and one of four that I own. The quality varies from album to album, but in my opinion this one is their strongest by some margin. Chronologically it sits in their more recent output; they seem to be getting consistently better with each new release. The limited vinyl-only The World is a House on Fire (2012) is also excellent and well worth seeking out if you can find a copy.

The music itself is dreary, indistinct and doom-laden. Really selling it here, aren’t I? For those who prefer their music to be thoughtful, sometimes difficult and a little avant-garde, this perfectly fits the bill. The vocals are hazy, hang in the background (sometimes drowned out by the guitars) and for the most part, sound like they are being sung by someone who is a whisky bottle away from suicide. The instruments (guitars, percussion and some treated effects) sometime rattle and moan with no real melody in mind, on other tracks there is a more coherent, defined sound which almost returns the sound to something akin to mainstream.

Individually, the tracks vary in structure if not much in overall tone. The opener, Aging, is a real wrist-cutter of a track. Definitely music to fit the mood if you are feeling down or out of sorts. There is a kind of jazz-like quality to the brushed drums, which sit behind a wall of guitar noise and vocals that hint of pain, loss and despair. This is one track that would have Simon Cowell reaching for the pills and vodka (if only!)….

Next up we have Can’t Stop, which is a little more upbeat. The vocals are still plaintive and distant, the instruments take centre-stage here and the melody is actually quite pleasant. This is the longest track on the album, clocking in at just over 9 minutes. It’s a bit of a journey (and a slightly repetitive one at that) but it does maintain the atmosphere which the album is striving to create.

All I want is calm follows, and this is one of two highlight tracks on the record. The simple plucked string melody and the droning, repeated drum beat in the background allow the vocals to shine through a little more than on previous tracks. The vocalist here actually gets beyond a whisper, injecting some emotional drive into the lyrics and inviting the listener in to share his pain.

Water Saw is an instrumental track, probably one of the weaker pieces on the album but again one which does not deviate from the mood and atmosphere being generated from song to song. Here we have strings, rattling effects and an underlying feeling of doom.

After this is the other highlight track, I can put all my faith in her. This song features the album’s strongest melody and vocals, and if anything sounds slightly positive and hopeful compared to what has gone before. It’s still difficult to make out the lyrics but I find this song to be quite soothing and contemplative, in contrast to the more depressing sounds of the first few tracks.

Little Lady Eye-full returns to the tried and tested formula of droning guitars and indistinct vocals, followed by another short instrumental piece Flurry. Finally, the album closer is All Planned – at this stage you aren’t really expecting anything too different from the rest of the album and you’d be correct to think so. This track is a little slower, a little quieter which allows the record to meander to a close, but essentially it’s more of the same.

I wouldn’t expect many people to ‘get’ this album. It’s about as far removed from mainstream pop as it’s possible to get whilst still using guitars, drums and vocals. You’ll either love it or hate it. It would be inadvisable to listen to the album if you are pre-disposed to self-harm. Yet taking all of this into consideration, I love it. It fits into my listening schedule whenever I am feeling low, it’s like a wall of depressing sounds that I can sink into and not give a fuck about the world around me. It satisfies my soul by speaking to the pain and loneliness that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me, and in turn makes me thankful that when I am at my lowest ebb there is music I can rely on to give me hope. Thank you Zelienople, the music you make helps me to find a way to cope with life, in a weird messed up way. It really does.

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