Review: Zvuku - Other Room Listening (2012) 2


artist: Zvuku
release: Other Room Listen­ing
format: CD-R, Digital
year of release: 2012
label: Futuresequence
dur­a­tion: 41:23

With all my dejec­tion over stag­na­tion in music in recent years and cri­tiques of nos­tal­gia and retro-mindedness hanging in the air every­where, it’s nice to be reminded that I can still be thor­oughly impressed by somebody’s album-length debut. Enter Zvuku, the pro­ject of Irish­man Karl McGrath. I’d become famil­iar with Zvuku’s music through the lovely free SEQUENCE com­pil­a­tions put out by Futuresequence earlier, and the tracks “Wood­pile” and “Cold” have fea­tured in our Even­ing of Light Cloud­scapes before. These tracks already stood out greatly from the rest because of their clar­ity of com­pos­i­tion and sound; a simple plucked violin loop, piano-based sound lay­er­ings, etc. Two EPs were put out earlier as well, but Other Room Listen­ing is the first full-length album.

The appeal of Zvuku’s sound tex­tures derives in part from the use of such acous­tic instru­ments (piano, gui­tar, violin) as basic input for the music. Through­out this album, melod­ies are presen­ted as is, or layered with more or less intense manip­u­la­tions: reverb, static, loops. This sense of drift­ing in-and-out of dir­ect aud­ib­il­ity is the cent­ral fea­ture of the often ghost-like tracks on Other Room Listen­ing, and the title itself indic­ates part of that exper­i­ence. Some parts of the music are heard as if some­where else, in some meta­phor­ical other room.

Opener “Log­pile” sounds like an abstrac­ted ver­sion of that earlier track, “Wood­pile”, redone in the style of this album, with more of an emphasis on rush­ing waves of sound and ambi­ences, rather than stac­cato melod­ies. The longest track, “Cold Yel­low Red Blue” takes this to the extreme, sev­eral parts being washed in gor­geous static, like shoegaze without the rock part, but end­ing at the same time in a clean, fra­gile piano piece. The rest of the tracks, two of medium length, two short, con­tinue this theme of mel­an­cholic melod­ies and altern­a­tions between dir­ect and hazy sound.

At times, Zvuku’s music recalls recent works by Richard Moult or Richard Skelton, in the sense that they too often rely on manip­u­la­tion of acous­tic instru­ments to gen­er­ate sound­scapes and other exten­ded com­pos­i­tions. I’d have to say that Zvuku’s approach is less repet­it­ive in terms of loop­ing than Skelton’s music, more var­ied in instru­ments than Moult’s, though abso­lutely noth­ing to the det­ri­ment of those artists. What I mean to say is that Zvuku has a very strong musical voice of its own, but one with styl­istic par­al­lels in the work of oth­ers. That voice of McGrath’s is as con­vin­cing here in forty minutes as on his earlier, shorter works, or per­haps even more, and he can be proud of this first album, a mas­ter­piece in the tra­di­tional sense: a test of skill that proves a former appren­tice has got what it takes.

Essen­tial listen­ing for lov­ers of ambi­ent and electro-acoustic works. There is a lim­ited edi­tion of 50 cop­ies on CD-R with art print - lovely design by the label - but after that the album will remain avail­able as a digital down­load.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Log­pile (6:35)
2. Cold Yel­low Red Blue (17:48)
3. The Long Walk (3:51)
4. Matches/Sticks (5:59)
5. Cold Yel­low Reprise (1:59)
6. Lastone (5:13)