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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