It’s hard to believe that buying a split seven-inch in the summer of 1995 would lead me to meet bands and musicians that I’d still be following to this day. Such is the case with Sean Byrne, who first showed up in my record collection while in the band Lenolaback in the mid-90s. He’s been creating music under a number of guises and projects since then – appearances with Mazarin, Azusa Plane, Matt Pond PA; as well as his own brands The Twin Atlas (with Lucas Zaleski) and Lazy Salon.
Earlier this year, he released an album of a project, called Camino Sound, that he has been working on with a local musician along with a longtime friend from college. This “band” got me excited again about the prospects of neighborhood garage bands and how there are always opportunities to connect with fellow musicians to make something awesome.
A refreshing sound emanates from the notes of Western Excuses, filled with myriad styles swirling together and played in a band environment. There are no genre boundaries here – the songs span multiple styles, even within the same song. The members of the ensemble – Sean Byrne on drums, Van Kapeghian on guitar and Keith Allen on bass – represent many years of playing in and out of scenes, listening to and absorbing a variety of influences along the way.
If you‘ve been reading the blog for a bit you’ll notice a pattern in most of the bands covered here – they’ve been around for awhile and they continue to create evolutionary sounds and music. This month’s featured band, Zelienople, is no exception.
They emerged from a scene in Chicago in the late 1990’s roughly centered around the Loose Thread record label, headed by Melochrome frontman Pramod Tummala. He introduced me to many new bands and artists, but the first few Zelienople albums, along with Western Automatic (a solo project from the band’s singer and guitarist Matt Christensen) especially stood out. The band released 12 full-length albums up until 2015’s Show Us the Fire, after which they took a 5-year hiatus.
The New Album
A few weeks ago, Zelienople released their latest album, Hold You Up which continues their exploration of sparse soundscapes and hypnotic bleakness which began almost 20 years ago. I had the chance recently to talk with Matt, just as this coronavirus quarantine was starting to take shape. The emotions that the current situation evokes, those of loneliness and isolation – the ill-effects of social distancing – drive the sparseness of their sound and form a basis for lyrical content. “I’m also working in mental health. I’ve been dealing with a lot of communities that are impoverished”, says Matt, “a lot of the stuff that I write about deals with poverty and marginalized people. I also, you know, I have anxiety. Depression. Got a pretty messed up family. I write from that perspective a fair bit.”
“I think every human needs a creative outlet, some means of self expression. Music happens to be mine.” Meet Adrien Capozzi, the musical mastermind behind some of the most inventive indielectronic music of the past 2 decades. “But really what keeps me going is the nagging feeling that I can make something more interesting than last time. I just have to try again!”
Originally part of the NYC-based Carpetbomb records crew, he has recently picked up the mantle again after a few years in the wilderness, and hasn’t skipped a beat, so to speak – in 2018, he released no fewer than 4 full-length albums, with another album and EP so far in 2019.
From the moment I first heard them on the “Psych For Sore Eyes” compilation EP 6 years ago, and up to today – Lorelle Meets the Obsolete remain one of my favorite bands of the decade. The songs they produce are so genuinely unique, there are no direct comparisons or sonic competitors.
After hearing the track, I had to look for more – and I found Corruptible Faces, a swirly amalgam of guitar-noise-drone mixed with hypnotic beats and acoustic treats, layered with the hazy alternating male and female vocals of Lorena and Beto. It took a few months for that album to really sink in, with each passing week revealing a new favorite track.