Somnambule - Writing About Music

Z’Ev ~ Headphone Musics, 1 to 6

The liner notes contain the following injunction: “Reviewers note: if you can’t be bothered to listen to this music using headphones, please don’t bother to write about it”. Z’Ev has probably earnt the right to such an attitude in a 30 year career which has included collaborations with Psychic TV, The Hafler Trio and Glenn Branca. Headphone Musics, 1 to 6 is the result of the manipulation of multiple layers of analogue tape, a technique alluded to in this release’s lengthy track titles, of which the following is a representative sample: “#3 - Passive Mixdown Of, As I Am Forced To Recall, Stereo & Mono Tracks Totaling Somewhere In The Region Of 40”. The cd begins with water echoing and splashing in subterranean caverns, mixed with distant roars which might be heavy machinery or traffic. The overlaid recordings of lapping, pliable water - almost the antithesis of the idea of percussion – result in a striking soundworld that’s dense, highly evocative and intermittently claustrophobic. In the following piece it sounds as if large iron sheets are being dragged and waved about only to be interrupted by sudden pauses and scourings that might have originated in the heart of a Saharan sandstorm, while further back in the mix are almost inaudible chimes and electric cicadas. Other pieces feature voices torn and stretched, souls caught in glimmering halflight, the sense of rituals enacted just out of view. The analogue techniques deployed on Headphone Musics can’t help but differentiate it from the oceans of computer-produced music lapping at our doors. As a result the sound of Headphone Musics is warmer and denser than its digital kin and there’s arguably an inevitable affinity with the musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer or Luc Ferrari. However there’s also a strong atavistic sense of hidden spirits being unearthed as if Z’Ev is mining inwardly not for gold, but rich, loamy materials.
Colin Buttimer
November 2004
Published by Grooves magazine