Friday, August 13, 2010

ZOND - s/t CD (R.I.P. Society/2010)
This recording has been doing the rounds for a while, so much so that I was beginning to think it'd never see the light of day. Friends of mine would ask me whether I'd heard it, to which I could only respond that since it had never been made commercially available, no, I hadn't. Recorded and mastered last year throughout June-September, the band was inexplicably having trouble getting it out there. Word was that Zond had recorded a double LP's worth of material, but was finding it tough to locate anyone willing to put up the cash to fund the enormously expensive outlay needed to press up a 2LP set. Or at least that's what I'd heard.
I bumped into Justin Fuller from the band about 6 months back whilst doing the shopping in Brunswick (the Home Of Rock in Australia, or so it's said) one day and quizzed him as to what was happening to this "legendary" record. He said he wasn't sure, and if I wanted to release it in some sort of commercially-viable format - something I was interested in - he'd forward me a copy. That unfortunately never happened, though he at least displayed the gentlemanly grace in reaching into his army jacket to pull out a copy for me last week when I bumped into him at a pub. To be honest, I'm unsure of the commercial viability of keeping the Lexicon Devil label alive in releasing any new material by anyone at this stage, but I'm still kinda miffed I didn't get to release Zond.
A four-piece guitar-overload unit w/ occasional keyboards and ethereal, almost wordless vocals buried in the mix, I've only, if memory serves, seen 'em once, and that was a good three years back (or more). Word had gotten around that J.K. Fuller had a new unit he was playing in which went for an amped-up psychedelic destructo-rock angle, somewhat in the vein of Japan's High Rise, and when I stumbled upon them one night, I was happy to kick back to take it in. Maybe it was just early days, but I left pretty underwhelmed. They still sounded too embryonic, like a simple "jam" band who took a riff and dug it into the ground before finally catching eye contact w/ each other, doing the obligatory nod and all agreeing to finish the song in the next bar. I know the feeling. I've played in those kinds of bands before. It's a blast to hang out w/ friends, get toasted and proceed to knock a series of monstrous riffs into the dirt, but it should never be mistaken for something anyone else outside of the performers involved may ever care to witness.
And that long-winded intro brings us to this, the self-titled debut which has finally found a home as a CD - a 43-minute one - on Sydney's reputed R.I.P. Society label. An odd thing for them to release, as I figured them to be a Sydneycentric bunch, but I'm glad they took the plunge. Zond have obviously improved in leaps and bounds since their endless-riff jam-band days: there's 10 songs here, some as short as 2 1/2 minutes. They sound like songs, too: a beginning, something approaching a chorus and a verse, and an end. Recorded by Jack Farley and mastered by Casey Rice, the sound is still fairly lo-tech in the sense that the drums and bass are a little too low in the mix, though the guitars leap from the speaker to awesome effect. I could've done w/ a bit more low-end, but that's just me searching for a complaint. Fact is, this is a really great album, one of the best Australian releases I'll likely hear all year (I'd stick Fabulous Diamonds' latest in there, too), and it's pursuing a musical path which is little travelled locally, or at least rarely pursued with any great discipline and effect.
The High Rise comparisons don't make a whole lot of sense to me anymore - a good thing as I was never much of a fan anyway - though if I gotta do it - and I gotta! - I'd say that the sonics of Zond really bring to mind an amalgamation of Bad Moon Rising-period Sonic Youth and the brilliant, other-worldly plod and grind of Skullflower's best recordings of yore (that'd be their Ruins/Xaman/Last Shot At Heaven releases from 20-odd years back). The buried vocals are more in the Loveless-period My Bloody Valentine realm, meaning they're there for the effect rather than lyrical concerns, and for me that's just fine. Zond have cut out all the boring stuff this kind of music can sometimes entail and kept it tight and to the point. There's a real sense of tension/release with the songs, a manner of ebb and flow w/ each track arching back at key moments and delivering the needed punch w/ its small army of FX pedals at disposal. Occasionally the sound overload resembles a wind tunnel, but you can detect a tune underneath and nothing outstays its welcome. It's finally out, it's cheap and I'm convinced. That's all there is to it.


Anonymous said...

"an odd thing for them to release, as I figured them to be a Sydneycentric bunch"

yo dude 5 out of the 12 releases so far have been from melbourne/brisbane

Dave said...

Well, there ya go. I guess I haven't been paying attention.