Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zaika - Live at the Church of the Friendly Ghost (Yodtapes CD-R)

Made it over to Albany last Sunday for another show at the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. The No More Bush Tour was rolling through town, and with a line-up as good as this there was no chance I was missing it. A bunch of spoken word stuff, most of it anti-bush (duh), featuring the likes of Byron Coley, John Morton of the Electric Eels (he took his pants off only to reveal his overcrowded animal print underwear before reciting a "fuck bush" haiku, the only words of which were "fuck bush"), and a guy I'd never heard of who blew me away named Charles Plymell (find it if you can...). Along with that, Ziamaluch, the moniker of Jack from Burnt Hills, accompanied Coley on cello (missed that one unfortunately), Axolotl accompanied 50 Foot Women, Morton and Bill Nace had it out with a duel-guitar/theremin/radio classics bonanza of insanity, Jack Rose did his Fahey guitar stylings and, to top it all off, Zaika performed. And that's not even the whole lot of it. It's damn near a miracle this thing didn't go all night but we were out by 10:30! Clearly the way a tour should be operated, no?

Anyway, Zaika blew me away so I of course ran over and picked up some of their offerings at the sizable merch table manned by John Moloney and Sarah O'Shea. Zaika is the guitar duo (in music and life) of Marcia Bassett (of Double Leopards, Hototogisu, GHQ, Zaimph, etc.) and Tom Carter whose performed with damn near everyone but whose group, Charalambides, is legendary. Anyway, these guys have been playing their psyched out blasts together since 2003, and it really shows. One gets the feeling that they could just keep going forever, never hitting the same pocket twice as they crescendo and decrescendo ad infinitum. Wild stuff.

Live at the Church of the Friendly Ghost was recorded on July 1st of this year down in Austin Texas. I was surprised to find out that the Church of the Friendly Ghost is a real place and not just some Casper joke but this event really happened and, luckily, was really documented in the form of one nearly half-hour jam. The whole thing starts off with a single buzz before warm strumming comes in, settling down into some pool of psychedelic folk faster than you can say "cosmic!" While one lays on the increasingly heavy chords, the other sends long shards of tone through a myriad of pedals. The whole thing builds nice and slowly, patiently stretching itself across some desert plane. No wankery, just focused growth before the chord structure is demolished in favor of more pointillist, Emeralds style leanings. It's actually much the same feel as that group, although Zaika is far grittier at most points. Still, there is that sublime feeling of total beauty, too big to grapple with in any way other than simply experiencing it. Sometimes the group moves away from the folkier chords in favor of straight drone monoliths, the twin guitars writhing around each other in epic abandon, or harsher and more disjointed torrents of angular power. It's epic without being cheesy and guitary without being sleazy, no small accomplishment.

About two-thirds through the whole thing it all crumbles into some weird, spacious nether-world, wailing in conversation over the deafening space between them. The whole thing just rides on these thick tones for a while like a whale and calf calling to each other before one guitar subsides, leaving only the echoing tone of the other to ride into emptiness, at which point the whole thing just STOPS for about ten seconds before reentering as gently as it left. The other guitar joins in and you can practically picture the way the strings are vibrating and the physical actions being done to wring such noises out of the guitar bodies. The next ten minutes are spent lurching along--it's after the end of the world I guess... and then it ends a second time just as it did the first. Awesome, in the classic sense.

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