Review: Zac Nelson – Towards Your Own Worlds (Field Hymns, 2011)

The fact that the post-everything trippertronic shaman Zac Nelson hasn’t made it into stardom of the drone-based experimental scene is one of the great mysteries of modern music. Well, maybe that’s a slight overstatement, but this cassette from the neo-kosmisch Portland label Field Hymns is a little nice taped gem, piercing its way through the sea of synth mediocrity. Whean nearly everything analog-synth related is tagged as “experimental”, on, Zac Nelson breaks through as one of the very few who truly deserve to be called experimental.

His music is some of the most advanced trippertronics one might have encountered over the years of their search for the weird. Other terms apply, too: “hypertronic”, “hyperdelic” (just like that Daniel Smith’s fluorescent drone label) or just “new weird everything”. Just to reflect on the overall sparkling weirdness of the entire cassette, it kicks of with a hallucinatory anthem “Glassy”, recalling the spirits of Astral Social Club with a bit of wide-eyed, space age pop vocalizations. The drone rises and falls in ecstatic swells, while the underlying beat changes kaleidoscopically between a bassy IDM-ish futurism and the kitschy carnival celebration. The foggy, moaning vocals are further carried out in the following “Labendolla”, where the fractured, frying, pulsing synth drones serve as a background for narcoleptic, shoegazy narrative.

The rest of the tracks are less or more a deconstruction of the stereotypes of drone music (maybe with the exception of the 2-minute “Human Strength Giving Itself Up Has Inspired That Cry”, which sounds pretty much exactly like Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Describing Bodies”), where the general, basic drone is modified and sprinkled with nice, little details. For example, the beatific, piano minimalism of “Borne By Tropical Waves Within Their Foamy Bosoms” sounds like the lo-fi emanation of Super Minerals and the 16-minute relaxing suite of “Scooch Over Presence” is a toned-down, inner-gazing New Age worship of the highest order, taking cues from the tropical meditations of Dolphins Into the Future, but adoring it with more little bleeps and bloops, adding more layers and creating a generally more “busy” and less “malaise” sound than the Belgian explorer.

Zac Nelson proves that it is possible to come from the land of drone and go so much further while using the source sound as inspiration and a basis for expanding the ideas without falling for the trappings of this genre. Zac Nelson is truly a rising power.

Grab the tape at Field Hymns website.


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