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zelienople - His/Hers
Having recorded a host of works for such prestigious underground imprints as Time-Lag, Root Strata, Last Visible Dog and Digitalis Industries, Chicago's Zelienople have been recruited by the estimable Type Records for the band's most assured musical statement to date. The sound-world conjured by His/Hers (almost certainly not a reference to the similarly-named Pulp album) is a resolutely sludgy domain, populated by a kind of slow motion blues. 'Family Beast' introduces the album, sounding like Ry Cooder lost in foggy marshland - this is American roots music from beyond the grave: a wisp of disembodied slide guitar breeding an atmosphere of lonely foreboding, setting the scene for Matt Christensen's murmured vocal. A more pronounced vision of song craft defines the slowcore sadness of 'Moss Man', it's a song that manages to hold onto a recognisable structure while maintaining a degree of intangibility and aloofness, striking a balance reminiscent of works by Charalambides or perhaps Grouper's spooked-out pop opus Cover The Windows And The Walls. Four minutes before its end an arc of guitar distortion ruptures the grey, overcast production, heralding Mike Weis' clattering drums to fully kick in for a final furlong of wailing noise. The musty psych-folk dressing that adorns 'Parts Are Lost' can't detract from the song's inherent elegance - it's actually not a million miles away from the sort of glacial balladry that has found Low such renown. Taking an entirely different slant on the band's sludgecore leanings, 'Forced March' is a more aggressively experimental affair, coated with layers of glistening noise that slowly fall away to reveal another haunted avant-folk landscape. The spirit of Loren Mazzacane Connors looms heavily over the phantom blues of final piece 'Sweet Ali', with slowly bowed guitar tones swelling and ebbing away amongst its desolate atmospherics. His/Hers succeeds as one of the more digestible, personable albums to come out of America's psych-folk scene of late: for every gesture towards abstraction there's something to keep you hooked in, something very human that breaks out from beneath that cloak of murk and shadow.