Over the past few years, DiS has used the annual year-end 'listing season' to highlight a few of our writers' favourite records that, for one reason or another, slipped through the cracks and failed to garner the attention they deserved.
In these increasingly fractious times and amidst a deluge of opinion, consensus is hard, veering-on-impossible, to find, and understandably some records are increasingly lost in the hubbub.
Over the course of this week and next, as part of our 12 days of DiSmas which culminates in our albums of the year listageddon, DiS will be highlighting 12 records from 12 of our staff released in 2012, in the hope that they finally find a place in a record collection or two...
Zelienople The World Is A House On Fire
For Zelienople, The World Is A House On Fire is the culmination of a decade and a half of evolution at a snail's pace. From the sheer noise to an endless echo, they've been beat down by fifteen unforgiving Chicago winters. Somehow, they have harnessed this sound in empty halls and captured the essence of the neglected galleries they call venues and The Studio.
What was born as a constant drone slowly unfurled into something much more rich. Not necessarily any less compromising or intense, but certainly more rewarding.
From start to finish, The World Is A House On Fire has an unforgiving canyon of reverb, submerged until the trio's stark instrumentation is almost absolutely obscured. Matt Christensen's sighed, indecipherable vocals drift in middle-distance whilst the hypnotic percussion of Mike Weis is filed down until floor toms resemble detuned raindrops and cymbals sound like plastic bags tossed asunder by a breeze.
There are many points of reference for it, though none of them really ring true. Bark Psychosis and Talk Talk are the most obvious, particularly on penultimate track 'Old Dirt', which makes like a meditation of Cormac McArthy’s Blood Meridian; spaghetti western transplanted into a gargantuan wasteland of trials and tribulations. Yet Zelienople's formula is far less strict and at no point dependent on silence, instead built on a constant hum. Said hum may bring to mind Stars Of The Lid, Hammock or a large majority of the Kranky Records back-catalogue, but there is far more happening above it that separates it from the tag of 'ambient', and it is driven by snake-charming basslines rather than left to drift out unmarked at its own accord.
To stretch muso-journalist bullsh^t to the point of breaking, perhaps it offers a view on what Spiritualized would sound like if Jason Pierce's first mission post-Spacemen 3 had failed; a creaking lonesome voice finding itself in a barren, alien landscape instead of charging orchestra-aided ever-forward. Here then 'The Southern' is 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space', stripped of the Hollywood mise en scene typically hung on the outer reaches of the universe but with all the inhospitality, the infinity and the absence of life and gravity.
Arguably then it is apt then that The World Is A House On Fire has been ‘lost’, that it has barely made a mark on the impressions of critics or the masses, but that certainly isn’t a fate that should befit it. It is one of 2012’s most atmospheric, most cinematic albums, and for my money also one of its’ best.