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LTJ-39 Zelienople: Ink


Zelienople: Ink Zelienople: Ink



1. it's still hard to steal cars (4:17)
2. ink (4:43)
3. the nod squad (4:34)
4. pace car (7:31)
5. rehabilitation (3:39)
6. life is simple (6:04)
7. seroquel (6:36)
8. boxes on shores (7:45)

Released 20.6.2005, opium den pop. Limited numbered edition of 100, features an insert, sold out.

"We recorded "Ink" on two separate days in May and April of 2005. All songs were recorded live to cd, with no overdubs. The instrumentation on all tracks is quite different from Zelienople's previous releases, with most of the instruments being invented. Boxes with springs or thick wire were used for percussion, and much of the "string" sounds were made with tuned suspension cable. Mike also plays a large artillery shell on two of the tracks. There's still a fair amount of guitar on the record, but most of it is obscured by the screeching and droning of the new instruments. Our reworking of "Hard to Steal Cars" (the first song on our first record, "Pajama Avenue") was put through the drone machine as a warm up for the recording session. We liked the way it turned out, and decided to include it with the other songs (no, we're not just lazy)."

NOTE: Reissued as real CD on Loose Thread Recordings in March 2006.

Insert for LTJ-39


"Rauhallista tunnelmointia, pop-elementtejäkin. Rauhallisiin trippiöihin, te kaikki pilvipäät. Me muut ehkä otamme mukaan rannalle ja nautimme elämän pienistä surrealistisuuksista." Jaakob Karhu

"A few spaces away from Zoviet France, and not just alphabetically: like those cryptic British experimentalists, this local quartet is fond of drones, disembodied sounds, live-to-tape recording, and looming ambience. The group employs guitars and tuned suspension cables among other instruments on the album, but damned if I can tell which is which. Get it while it's hot: Ink has been released in a numbered edition of 100, with spooky cover art to match the music inside." J.Niimi, Chicago Reader

"beautiful songs in dazed slow-motion and heavy lidded creaking drones" Boa Melody Bar

"Chicago's Zelienople have proven to be an intriguing band over the course of their last few releases. For me, they were never great, but always very good - something I occasionally enjoyed listening to. That all changed with the release of "Ink" on Finland's 267 Lattajjaa imprint. "Ink" is a sonic masterpiece. The intricacies of these compositions is only heightened by the alternating moments of pure spontaneity. These are recordings that are lost at sea, begging to be discovered by ships passing in the night.

The set opens with the simple, reverb-laden "It's Still Hard to Steal Cars." Based around acoustic guitar and vocals, there is a reflective feeling to this song of someone looking back on their life during their last days. Underlying drones provide a soft blanket for the sullen hope that death will offer to lie on. This track is equally dark and beautiful. There's a lot of dichotomies on "Ink," and Zelienople are smart to start the album in such a way. Immediately, you are grabbed into the fold and shown that this album is a force to be reckoned with.

What gets lost in the grandeur of "Ink," are the subtleties that set it apart as a truly great album and one of 2005's finest. This fact is most prevalent on the second longest song, "Pace Car." Underneath a wash of electric drones, organic ruins of a once great civilization permeate the soundscape. As the piece slowly unfolds, revealing the intricate beauty of a flower in full bloom, you get lost in the sea of bowed acoustic guitars and metallic percussion. They are barely in the mix, especially the quiet sleigh bells, but they're just over the horizon. The way in which they're used keeps you guessing, wondering if you're really hearing all these things. It's a magnificent track.

Not all of "Ink" is quiet, though. "Seroquel" is six-and-a-half minutes of distorted, steamed-out bliss. If the rest of "Ink" are quiet, inspiring dreams, this is the nightmarish counterpart. "Seroquel" comes at you with all its guns drawn. Layer upon layer of bowed guitars battle it out with the screeching rivers of electric fuzz. It's an awesome combination and the perfect antithesis to the more solemn aspects of "Ink." Diversity is the key on this album, and "Seroquel" is a major part of that. Sandwiched between the non-instrumental, and wholly satisfying, "Life is Simple" and "Boxes on Shores," makes it that much better.

A lot of thought not only went into the writing and recording of "Ink," but also the sequencing. Zelienople have concocted a rich and virtually flawless album. On "Life is Simple," it sounds as though they repeat the lyric "In the minor leagues" over and over. I can safely say this is a band no longer stuck below. They've hit it out of the park with this one. "Ink" is one of 2005's best albums to get completely lost in. - 9/10"
- Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis

"In the few years Chicago's Zelienople have been an actual band, they've experimented with a variety of configurations of their sound. After the shifting eclecticism of Pajama Avenue and the hushed, almost melancholy focus of Sleeper Coach, Zelienople have arrived with Ink at perhaps the most well integrated statement of their divergent threads. Unlike the previous records, where overdubs smoothed over rough edges and instrumentation and composition were a little more standard, for Ink, Zelienople invented instruments out of boxes, springs, wire, and suspension cables, and recorded live in what sounds like a large reverberant space. The new instruments and "no overdub" philosophy moves Zelienople even further away from the monochromatic consistency of their earlier work. But what the band sacrifice in terms of a consistent tone, they more than make up for in range.

The change in modus operandi has opened up and deepened their sound in several important ways. First, and most obviously, the new instruments give immediate access to a broader (and to my ears more organic) palette of sounds. Secondly, rather than the lovely but up front songs on Sleeper Coach, the song structures on Ink are more elusive and willing to share the stage with the newly discovered and more abstract textures. Finally, the live recording really gives the listener the feeling of existing inside the music rather than experiencing it at a remove. At first seemingly split between recognizable melodic figures and sonic effects, it took a few listens to hear how well balanced the compositions on Ink actually are. Rather than distracting from foreground melodies, the intrusion of sometimes cacophonous coloration allows the listener to search out the tune or let go and fall back into the warm void. This makes for a more active listening experience but without forcing complete rapt attention.

The opening track "It's Still Hard to Steal Cars" is a relaxed restatement of the similarly titled track on Pajama Avenue. It serves as continuity for returning listeners while introducing them to the nuances of Zelienople's newfound subtler and dreamlike sound. Lacking the anchor of the original's drum beat, this version hinges upon the interaction between the droning, shifting background and Matt Christensen's low key vocals. From the creaking moan and clatter of the title track as the band navigates a hanging forest of springs and wires to the feedback hum and squeal of "Pace Car", the focus is not entirely on an amorphous body's linear movement, but also on the whirling eddies and trails created as it swims underwater. Occasionally, as on "Seroquel", the band tilts into noisier and more ominous territory as squalls of guitar form a nearly impenetrable veil. However, rather than ruining the carefully developed mood, the dissonance feels more like an evolution; an inevitable dark force that had been lurking behind earlier tracks only now announcing itself. Which is not to say that Zelienople dispensed with songs completely on Ink. In fact, "Life Is Simple"'s gentle strums and breathy vocals sounds like a lazy summer's canoe drift down a lily pad covered stream with an unplugged, but still well-opiated Jesus & Mary Chain at the helm. In "The Nod Squad", shimmering organ and rhythmic bells form a soft bed for a gorgeous spare and echoing acoustic guitar.

Ink is a leap forward for the band and validates their strategic shift in technique. By increasing the immediacy and inventiveness of their recordings, Zelienople has declared that they are ready to up the intensity and confront listeners with an expanded arsenal while still maintaining a consistent aesthetic. It's the kind of move many artists never make and reveals a predeliction for adventure I'll be listening for wherever it takes them next. 10/12"
- Fakejazz

"Over the last few months we have discovered Zelienople whose last album "Sleeper Coach Lot" was fantastic textured psychedelic guitar soundscapes that updated the mellow sound of Pink Floyd for the post-rock era. They return on "Ink" a Cdr from the always wonderful 267 lattaaja label. This takes the sound down into a sort of slow mournful droning post-folk. The songs were recorded live over two days with the instruments strung with thick wire. You can hear it too, the sound is both warm in the live setting and intoxicating in the deep resonant sound of the strings. As the pieces are slow and overlaid with drones this gives them a depth and intensity above many similar works. "The Nod Squad" is like a cold ambient track from Lull or Main at first before acoustic notes and sustained organ reminded me of Talk Talk's "Spirit of Eden". "Pace Car" takes the instruments almost entirely away just leaving their droning aural leakage, feedback and hum drifting in the air with just cloud drift electric guitar hanging in suspended chords. "Rababilitation" takes it even further into just minimalist droning tones and harmonic overtones.

It is as they are reducing themselves to the pure core of their sound. A slow song, seeming depressed and internal called "Life is Simple" implies it is anything but, before the primal feedback-guitar roar of "Seroquel". This track is how you imagined Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" was, a symphony of never crescendoing guitar noise, polluted and confronting. It's close to Glenn Branca's "Gates of Hell" guitar symphony and all the more eye melting coming after the glacial pieces before. We end with "Boxes on Shores" a shimmering far-eastern melody over glass like drones. Vocals sit almost unheard and out of reach. The longing here still isn't resolved, shown as the almost brutal guitar chords pound in waves over the top. With this release they may lose some fans and gain new ones, it's a brave and seemingly personal development of their sound. If they can marry the sonic evolution here with the structure of their earlier album they may create a modern masterpiece."
The Unbroken Circle

"I've praised this Chicago-based combo's music quite extensively before, but I still find it somewhat difficult to describe exactly what it is that makes them so special. Some of their drone/post rock/slow core/experimentalism moves have surely been examined before but there's a density and sense of hidden energy under the surface that places these guys ahead of the rest of the squad.

This fairly new CD-R from the 267 Lattajjaa label is no exception from that rule as it elegantly glides through cinematic dreamscapes, urban fog, free-flowing improvisations, corrosive string ceremonies and detailed mantras of fragmentized noise. Given its sonic focus, Ink is a surprisingly moody and melancholic listen, never letting things to slip away too far from the organic base Zelienople refers to as home.

Zelienople is starting to gain attention in certain circles but if you ask me things are going way too slow. What we need now is a relatively big US label (what about Kranky?) to reissue this stunningly delicate and convincingly toned down sound sculpture. This is harmonically and texturally challenging drone music packed with so much emotion and darkly seducing beauty that it sucks me in time after time. Recommended."
Mats Gustafsson, Broken Face

"While some bands have pushed themselves closer to mainstream of pop territory with each release, Chicago's Zelienople is seeminly moving in the opposite direction with each step they take. Their debut album Pajama Avenue was sort of a narcotic pop album that bubbled just underneath the surface, but their follow-up Sleeper Coach drifted into the woods more, obscuring the soft keyboards and delicate instrumentation with washes of drones.

Although it's not a major release (it's actually limited to around 100 copies), Ink is yet another step for the band in terms of exploring their experimental side. For the release (which was recorded live with no overdubs over the course of two days), the group constructed many of their own instruments, using boxes with springs or wire for percussion and tuning suspension cable for deep humming tones while using the clonk of empty artillery shells to send a shock through the reverberation.

The last word in the above statement is the key word in this release, as it sounds like Ink was recorded in an empty silo or at least a very, very large room with walls that didn't have any sound dampening. After opening with a droning remake of "It's Still Hard To Steal Cars," the group springboards into much more terse sounds, with the title track sounding like the moaning of deep sea whales before it crashes into a wall with a harsh racket. In fact, there are several times on the release when the group seems to get a little carried away with making sheer noise, and while it makes for a creepy atmosphere, the sheer scrapiness of sonics will probably only appeal to more serious drone/noise fans.

While the homemade instruments approach is novel, the group is still at their best when they let the reverb-soaked instrumentation of guitars and organs come drifting through the mist of drone. Both "The Nod Squad" and "Pace Car" shine (especially the latter) as the group lets the weird noises blend in more subtlely while sustaining warm chords and melodies on real instruments. At over forty-five minutes, it's a good batch of music from the group, but as mentioned above, it's definitely not going to appeal to everyone (even fans of their more droney previous album)."
Aaron Coleman, Almost Cool

"jadis formation post-rock talentueuse dans un genre circonscrit, les voilà qui tendent le saut dans le vide avec un approche expérimentale qui rompt avec leurs habitudes (...) " Derives

"By revamping their sound, recording methodology and even constructing new instruments to realize their new vision, Zelionople went from "nice to listen to" to "you gotta hear this". Rather than experiencing their music at a remove, "Ink" puts the listener right in the middle of the action. And once there, you may never want to leave." Steve Rybicki

"The Chicago quartet comprised of Matt Christensen on bass, guitar, organ and vocals, Brian Harding on b-flat, bass clarinet, piano, guitar, Neil Jendon on guitar and Mike Weis on drums, vibraphone y various eastern percussion. Zelienople was formed after years doing experimental recordings on a 4 tape and later in the Autumn of 2003 guitarist Neil Jendon become a new member of the band. Jendon was very involved in the improvised music scene. Most of the instruments are invented - of course there is a guitar and keyboards though - like cables used as strings, boxes with springs, among others. Here we can find drone passages, an indescribable percussion, many effects on acoustic and electric guitar, creating endlessly soundscapes." Guillermo Escudero

"Recorded live during two days in 2005 and originally issued on Finland's 267 Lattajjaa imprint in a limited edition of 100, Zelienople's follow-up to Sleeper Coach is the aural equivalent of a harrowing trip to Hades and back. In its rework of "It's Hard to Steal Cars" (included on its first album Pajama Avenue), the guitar-based (and drummer-less) quartet swathes Matt Christensen's whispered vocal in humungous echo, thereby amplifying the song's disturbed character. But that's about as conventional-sounding as the album gets, with its subsequent material oozing dread from every droning pore. Though electric guitar textures add evocative atmosphere, the primary instrumental focus is on the group's 'invented' instruments: percussion noises produced from springs and thick wires, and 'string' sounds generated using tuned suspension cable (an artillery shell is even 'played' on a couple of tracks). Not surprisingly, the sounds deepen Ink's haunted ambiance, as scrapes and moans resound through the cavernous hallways of its abandoned mansion.

All of which might suggest that the album's an unpleasant listen. Far from it: though pursued uncompromisingly, Ink's cryptic sound is actually inviting, sometimes even seductive, and, despite the eccentric instrumentation, generally accessible. Maintaining balance helps too, with the Chicago-based band wisely juxtaposing the nightmarish "Seroquel," for example, with the gentler vocal-based folk mantra "Life is Simple" and the rather bucolic "Boxes On Shores." For every moment that evokes the horrible sound of an animal's dying cry, there's another that suggests the peaceful calm that inevitably follows a traumatizing episode of violence."
Ron Schepper, Cyclic Defrost Magazine

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