Dublin based Zeropunkt continues its probing of cosmic noise and progressive spontaneity with a new album, the group’s second under the current name, and squillionth if you include the material recorded under the name ¡NO!
To the initiated, Zeropunkt’s “free improv, free psychedelia, no wave” modus operandi makes perfect sense. But on paper, it’s a hard sell to the point where representing or reviewing it seems like an exercise in futility. Every attempt at a coherent explanation of what it is, or what it’s supposed to be, feels like a cautious workaround – a struggle to convince those who are inevitably disinterested the second they see the word “improvised”…
…And of course, this is with good reason – the world of improvised music, local and international, is lopsided with terrible shit made by insufferably pretentious halfwits who think they can explain away their dirge with some snippets of boring musical theory and/or boring drug-fuelled inspiration. Even the mighty Can in their finest years released swathes of toe-curling nonsense.
Zeropunkt is ever cautious in its approach to improvisation and is yet to present us with any old toss as a creative endeavour. Clearly, there is a strong sense of quality control in place and this makes them a reliable prospect from one release to the other, whatever they come up with.
The group’s previous album, Future Perfect Continuous, on Irish cassette label Fort Evil Fruit, was sharply focused on a kind of low-fidelity noise jazz scat, balancing equal measures of meander and tension. This worked well, but presenting ostensibly the same album to the world twice in a row would be ripping the piss…
…And so, Clap Your Hands And Say No seems like a necessary exercise is sonic expansion for Zeropunkt, and one that consciously steers clear of formulaic churning and any bad kind of repetition. Across five tracks, the group embraces an ever-widening spectrum of noise, drifting outward and collecting tangles of audio detritus along the way, including twists of heavy guitar, dulcet chiming euphonics and other auricular curios.
All most nothing is a slow-burning opener – keyboard drone, bass noodles and drum shuffles all feeding into a kind of 70’s styled cosmic jazz. This is the mantle for an 11:40min duration, sporadically accommodating organ phrasing and squawking sax, but ultimately adhering to a simple and effective style parameter.
The psychoanalysis of fire is probably the first time since the ¡NO! album in 2015 – the one with the elephant on the cover – that the group has presented a workout this abrasive and guitar-centric. The official line refers to this as “the wild thrill of a fiery chaotic grunge”. To external ears, the results are barbed and indifferent to the service of a riffed groove, basking instead in the gnarled joy of what a distorted 6-string has to offer when not beholden to orthodox song structure.
Apo Azar recedes to essentials, detailed primarily by a chiming bell and suggesting something sacred and ceremonial. This serves as a fitting prelude to the excellent Victor UFO, the undoubted highlight of the album with its playful throbs of bass, rigid drums and one string guitar lead. Its glorious reluctance to venture towards rock renders it a kind of high meadow Kraut-y surf tune played by someone who has never dipped a toe in salt water.
Finally, German Windows is an obscure funk of weird percussion, feedback and more lacerations of anti-guitar. Muted chugs surface here and there, but these never reconstitute as into anything pushing towards organised arrangement and the cacophonous mess of it all appeals to the Faust fanatic in me!
Ultimately, the make-or-break of this output is that Zeropunkt understands self-editing. And strongly in Clap Your Hands And Say No’s favour, this album is five distinct tracks in 40 minutes, not an hour+ of diminishing returns. Clearly, these tracks come from longer recordings, but as the group understands, it is completely unnecessary for the consumer to hear every second of the process. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let those extra seconds of perceived sporadic genius go in service of a worthy end result!