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Zomes - Improvisations

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Artist: Zomes

Album: Improvisations

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jan. 24, 2012


Zomes - "No. 3" (Improvisations)


For two full-length albums as Zomes, Asa Osbourne has constructed short, mesmeric meditations out of the most rudimentary materials, squawky keyboards mostly, reinforced by the steady thwack of drum machines and occasional bits of guitar. Over the first two albums, the self-titled debut in 2008 and last year’s Earth Grid, Osbourne kept his compositions concise and disciplined. No track on the debut lingered much past the three and a half minute mark. Earth Grid‘s compositions topped out at just over five minutes. And most, if not all, of these staticky, hypnotic cuts relied on beats to keep them moving.

With Improvisations, originally released as a cassette tape in 2010 by Imminent Frequencies, Osbourne has left movement behind. Three long tracks sprawl over the disc’s half-hour duration, all alike enough to blend into one another, none especially tethered to rhythm.

There is a wavery drone at the back of these compositions that persists throughout the entire album, not changing so much as shifting in and out of focus. In the foreground, flowery organ lines blossom and cascade over one another, trilling off into silence, reaching like vine tentacles into the deep shadows of drone. Where earlier Zomes material hinted at premeditated composition – or at least preparation – these Improvisations sound like wandering thought processes. Little melodic ideas are stirred like dust motes in the slightest breeze, swirling around one another, then settling again into quiet.

In most music, you’d focus on the higher, more tuneful elements, but there’s something solidifying about the way the drone continues, unperturbed, regardless of what else is happening around it. It seems, at times, to be the main point of Improvisations. You could get lost in these sustained tones, sunk deep into their unchanging rumble.

Improvisations presents a very different experience from previous Zomes albums, where stark percussion and occasional guitars gave the whole enterprise a rock sound, even if it was more meditational than usual. This third Zomes album is far more static, yet the statis itself is arresting. It reminds me, in a visceral way, of sitting in church decades ago as the organist warmed up, my eyes closed, feeling the deep tones and subtle shifts in air temperature as a sort of proof of god’s presence (more proof, at least to me, than anything anyone ever said there). It makes no more sense now than it did then, but Improvisation‘s organs are a lot like the ones I grew up with, evoking a deep serenity and connection with the infinite.

By Jennifer Kelly

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