Zodiacs - Gone
Keith Boyd 03.07.07
America is a noisy place. Every which way you turn we've got big machines ripping up asphalt, knocking down buildings and generally creating a ruckus. The ethos behind this noise making goes back to our country's founding. From soon after the landing of the Pilgrims it's been a steady, God inspired race to maximize the potential of every square inch of land we encounter. This manifest destiny driven fever is the fuel behind the great American noise grinder. The second we invented or ripped off a new technology it was instantly put to service in clearing land, smashing older structures and building new ones. We're in the act of perpetually becoming in this country. Our land may have essentially reached carrying capacity but that didn't stop us, we simply built upwards. Witness the bionic robot fingers of skyscrapers that grew like wildfire from the turn of the last century onward. These metallic spikes punctured the atmosphere and pointed towards the heavens like the hands of some industrial prophet. Soon we answered that call by going into space and not only going into space but projecting the noise of our world ever outward in intergalactic time capsules filled with recordings of our world in the desperate hope that someone would hear them.
Enough with the big picture. Bring it all back home (to paraphrase Dylan). Spend a day really paying attention to what you are hearing. I think you'll be shocked! At any given moment, night or day, you are literally being bathed in a sea of noise. Our survival instinct mind has thankfully given us a filter to comb through this mess and hear only what is important for our safety. We hear the horn of the truck barreling down on us. We hear the alarm clock calling us to another workday. We don't hear the whoosh and grind of every car that passes us on the street. We don't hear the whispering crackle of the power and phone lines surrounding us. This filter works so well that we can get tricked into the idea that perhaps there is real quiet anywhere. True quiet is a hard state of being to find. I'm not even sure it's desirable. I've had a few experiences where I feel I've known what quiet is and they scared the crap out of me. One was in Africa while hiking near the village I lived in. I'd come to a huge outcropping of rocks and decided to do a little climbing. I found a spot through the rocks where there was a crawl space. One rock was leaning against another and I figured I'd slide through to the other side. Well once under I realized that there was another huge boulder blocking the way and I was essentially surrounded by rock on every side. I knew I could get out the way I'd come in but for a few minutes I just stopped. At first it was silent. A silence that had a dead air quality to it. I'd move my hand against the rock surface and the scratchy shuff of pebbles breaking away would literally be eaten as it occurred. The air going in and out of lungs made short burst of noise but these too had a leaden or dead quality to them. Slowly I became aware of the sound of my heart beating, a rushing whirling pulse in my ears. Listening to this only highlighted who very silent everything was. I began to feel woozy and unsettled. I thought to myself how very invisible I was at that moment. After a bit I began to ruminate on what would happen if the rock shifted. I would have been crushed of course and was overcome with the need to get out of this silent place. I started feeling the enormous weight of the rocks I was surrounded by and the cold, indifferent silence that they embodied. I slid out quickly and made for the noisy, living tumult of the village. My other experience of silence was a night in high school when I lived in Maine . The winter in Maine is generally an amazing display of the intensity that nature can muster. Winter in Maine is cold and snowy. It is also quite beautiful. The effect of the long string of sub-zero days is that people tend to spend as little time in it as possible; consequently the outdoors sees less of our human activity. One night I'd gone to sleep during a snow storm only to wake up around 3 am with the moon shining in my window. The light drew me to my backdoor where I couldn't help myself but to step out into it. Sure it was cold. A deep down bone cold that froze my nostrils and made my eyes ache. What really hit me though was the silent silver world I was witnessing. Everything was shining with a deep blue/silver glow. There was no wind. I heard nothing. Slowly the scene went from being beautiful to beautifully sinister. It wasn't a landscape that permitted human existence. While still in awe of its beauty I slowly backed away from the scene not really wanting it to seep into me too deeply. These instances of silence are I suppose the exceptions that prove the rule. It's next to impossible to find true silence or even relative quiet. As stated before however, that's probably not a bad thing. A silent environment is void of human activity. "What noisy cats are we" to quote Mike Stipe.
What does all of this have to do with rock-n-roll hepcat, noise-ters Zodiacs and their new CD Gone you ask? Well, a lot actually. This slab of lo-fi, grunt-rock skronk is committed to the idea of filling every possible second with noise, noise, noise. There's literally no more room available in its dense, hash-oil soaked grooves. The jagged edges of its riff squeeze out the highs and lows leaving a wall of tough as nails middle to contend with. It sounds stuffed. Stuffed with motorcycle oil soaked rags that is. If I were leading the charge in some imaginal insurgency against the Empire of Silence, Zodiacs could well provide the soundtrack. Made up of personnel from Hush Arbors and Wooden Wand, I get the sense that Zodiacs is a fantasy-filled side project for its participants. They don evil sounding monikers and have the cover resembling the back of a biker gang jacket from some sixties exploitation flick. The songs all clock in at super long times and simply pound away at your head. The tempos never really get pushed too far or achieve much velocity. They chug along soaked in tar and echoes filling every void they encounter. After a long listen you start to feel pinned into a sonic corner but one you want to hang out in for a bit. It's a gloriously freaky ride that at times can conjure up the sounds of Fun House era Stooges or a third generation Hawkwind bootleg. Dense and pumping. Maximum amounts of noise and squall. Holy Mountain has brought it again! All hail the end of silence!