Plumbiferous Media

Give It Up - Zelienople

Dec 24th 2009
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Give It Up - ZelienopleZelienople
Give It Up
Score: 39

Zelieno­ple, a Chica­go band named after a Penn­syl­va­nia bor­ough, com­bines ele­ments from post-rock, shoegaze, and drone. Their newest LP, Give It Up, released ear­li­er this month, dis­plays Zelieno­ple’s approach to this increas­ing­ly com­mon com­bi­na­tion of gen­res, falling square­ly into the realm of the ambi­ent. How­ev­er, a lack of real inno­va­tion or cre­ativ­i­ty pre­vents Give It Up from being much more than anoth­er fair­ly gener­ic ambi­ent album.

Vocal­ly, both Give It Up and Zelieno­ple as a whole rely upon sub­dued words from Matt Chris­tensen - unsur­pris­ing giv­en the post-rock influ­ence inher­ent to Zelieno­ple’s music. Chris­tensen’s voice acts as a lay­er below and through the music, float­ing air­i­ly by the ear. This tech­nique can be used well, but on Give It Up it gen­er­al­ly means that the vocals come in at such a low lev­el that, once the music has slipped by as large­ly unre­mark­able, the vocals don’t have the ener­gy to bring it back. It is impor­tant to note that the vocals do occa­sion­al­ly work well with the music, but it’s gen­er­al­ly only for a sec­ond - and it’s not so much laud­able as it is surprising. 

Giv­en the vocal style of Give It Up, the gen­er­al lack of clear­ly intel­li­gi­ble lyrics is fair­ly nor­mal. How­ev­er, in this case, rather than ele­vat­ing the vocals to the sort of organ­ic sound found in some of the best exam­ples of music of this style, this instead allows the vocals to fade into a posi­tion of even low­er impor­tance. Rep­e­ti­tion cer­tain­ly does­n’t help this, espe­cial­ly when it’s of the least com­pelling sec­tions of the vocal track.

There is very lit­tle that is tru­ly, instant­ly iden­ti­fi­able as wrong with Give It Up. Yes, the album attempts to approx­i­mate a dark, flow­ing sound but ends up, more than any­thing, sound­ing entire­ly too arti­fi­cial (the shod­dy echo effect and oth­er effects placed on top of the vocals cer­tain­ly do not help in the slight­est). And grant­ed, there are occa­sion­al teeth-grind­ing moments, for exam­ple, what can only be assumed to be the musi­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a water saw (on the track of that title) that sounds like one’s head­phones slow­ly being torn apart by a grain mill. But for the most part, the sounds of the album are rel­a­tive­ly harm­less, occa­sion­al­ly inter­est­ing, and, at least, not unpleasant.

The over­ly­ing prob­lem with the album then is that “rel­a­tive­ly harm­less” and “occa­sion­al­ly inter­est­ing” is, as a whole, not very inter­est­ing at all. After the first sev­en-minute-long track has final­ly end­ed, the lis­ten­er knows almost all the mate­r­i­al on the album. Most of the album pass­es by com­plete­ly unno­ticed, and the parts that pop out of the rest of the frame­work are usu­al­ly the parts that would have bet­ter been left out. So even though lis­ten­ing to the album itself is not par­tic­u­lar­ly irri­tat­ing, it leaves a fair­ly unpleas­ant taste in the mouth.

Give It Up is not a great album. While it’s gen­er­al­ly not all that bad, its near-com­plete lack of unique­ness is one of the less pleas­ant forms. The album’s utter lack of diver­si­ty, gen­er­al mediocre sound, botched mix­ing, and occa­sion­al bla­tant flaws is not exact­ly a for­mu­la for a strong album. Give It Up is sim­ply not very good.

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