Named after a borough in Pennsylvania, Zelienople is a three-piece from Chicago. ?His/Hers?, their fifth full-length on Type Records, blends ethereal folk with psychedelic haze and noisy clatter almost seamlessly.
Type?s press release refers to the record as one of ?pure psych-rock sludge.? It?s a bit misleading, though, as there isn?t a sludgy moment on the entire album. There are, however, plenty of hushed, melodic passages that lead into near-blistering, heavy ones. But unlike most of the bands in the tired post-rock genre, Zelienople pulls off the quiet-to-loud dynamic in a way that?s not at all formulaic or contrived.
This is displayed perfectly on the album?s second and standout track, ?Moss Man? (and I?m not just saying that because it may or may not be named after one of my favorite ?He-Man? action figures as a child). Most of the track rests on a stark, beautiful melody played on clean guitars that easily bring Tom Carter?s most tuneful work with Charalambides. Guitarist Matt Christensen?s vocals, which sound a lot like those of Dead Meadow?s Jason Simon, have a ghostly presence as they seep into the track for moments at a time. Tension continually builds until the track bursts into a cacophony of improvisation, with flamethrower guitar workouts and rollicking free jazz drums. The moments of bliss are suitably followed by ?Parts are Lost?, a catchy folk tune propelled by sleigh bell percussion (can you ever have enough sleigh bells?) that eventually takes a dark turn into a buzzing, droning improvised abyss.
Unfortunately, ?His/Hers? eventually loses momentum and ends on a bit of a low point, with ?Sweet Ali?, a directionless, cavernous improvisation. It?s a forgettable track that feels a bit tacked on and lessens the impact of the album as a whole.
But when they find the perfect balance between improvisation and structured songwriting on previous tracks, Zelienople proves to be a truly talented and accomplished act worth anyone?s time and attention. 8/10 -- Franklin Teagle (31 October, 2007)