Album Reviews

Zomes – Earth Grid

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 11 April 2011

Zomes is the work of one Asa Osborne, long-time obscure pioneer with Lungfish and assorted other bands that sound weird but cool, and the album Earth Grid was recorded on cassette tape and with primitive keyboard drum loops to underpin further keyboard motifs.

There’s a fine and rather illogical line between the primitive sounding avant-garde compositions/doodlings of musicians that create hysteria and ‘change the game’ (Metal Machine Music, the work of Daniel Johnson, &C.)  and the sea of four-track tapes sixth form students craft as they take their initial steps into music making. Earth Grid fits snugly into the latter category.

This isn’t to suggest it suffers lofty intentions. The start of Opening is initially impressive. Heavy bass notes thud under flourishes of sound. It’s the collective effect of the further 14 tracks of this one-tempo, pummelling brain drain that make it an experience not necessarily to be enjoyed.

Drones and loops make for great, dizzying emotional blenders that force concentration or push scale and poignancy, whilst the less polished recording variety exhilarates and captures energy in a way that Butch Vig can’t extract for all his experience and equipment. But combine the two approaches, as per Earth Grid, and you’re left short-changed. Spiralling, despite its dynamic title and elements of My Bloody Valentine‘s sound, does little but sit, happy and content in its locked structure, a stuck carousel with four very happy musical participants – keyboard drum line, keyboard chords and two motifs.

The simplicity is almost brazen, and at moments you can find yourself listening contently if passively. Stark Reality picks a different keyboard, with a slightly more aggressive sound to fumble about with, demanding attention for a few seconds before the track steps back in line and returns to slumber. If this is an output determined by strict regimen, a Dogma inspired manifesto, it unfortunately highlights the flaws that can exist within process driven creativity. If the variety that drone as a style and action can splatter out, Pollock like, can be so inspiring, why is Earth Grid seemingly so content in being bland?

Earth Grid does what it does and maybe that is the sole objective, an obtuse experiment in the metrics of engagement. Some will undoubtedly put this on headphones, stare into the middle distance and find a place that only Osborne can open for them. Many will ignore it. And maybe that’s what Osborne wants.

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More on Zomes
Zomes – Near Unison
Zomes – Earth Grid