Star Zero Pound – Star Zero Pound – Album Review
Let’s get bizarre!
The self-titled debut album from Star Zero Pound gets released in a couple days-time…so I figure it’s close enough to bring some of the information I’ve got on this otherworldly music into your orbit. Star Zero Pound is a project from the mind of Tim Santos…and he does…well…EVERYTHING you’ll hear in this highly imaginative sound he’s creating…the man deserves a lot of credit for putting together ideas this expansive in scope, ambition and size. Let’s just say that Tim certainly didn’t take the easy way out when it came to the writing, music or performances on Star Zero Pound. Recognize that he definitely could have played it much, much safer than this – but that’s not what exploring music & sound is all about is it? Star Zero Pound is looking to find its own place amongst the stars…nothing wrong with that.
For those that dig their trivia…you can also find Star Zero Pound and Tim having a connection to the art/music combination known as Those Shadow People…definitely another project checking out, heck, I just mentioned them earlier today when reviewing Suburban Vermin’s latest EP…I think that entire crew over there have some really great ideas and it always shows in what comes out from this whole camp of talent that exists out there somewhere. With Tim being a part of that ever-creative collective, I felt pretty sure about how this album would turn out…and true to form, the bizarre & the beautiful firmly met the lefts and the rights of the studio speakers as the music began to play and present itself…
After the dreamy guitars break from the intro and into the main meat of the progressive structure that the opening track becomes, “Grand Prismatic Pool” sets the tone quickly with a sound that’ll blend a wide range of influences from Pink Floyd to Primus and The Beatles to Elton John. That give you an idea? I swear – you’ll actually hear what I’m saying in this tune…there are fine comparisons to be made to all through the way “Grand Prismatic Pool” sounds – but you’ll also notice that not any one comparison would completely cover what Star Zero Pound is all creating here. It really has that otherworldly blend…the space-like grooves of a band like Pink Floyd, the structure, movement & hypnotic tone of a slow-burning Primus tune, the transitions into inspired bizarre, psychedelic-pop terrain like The Beatles loved to do, and the vocal-flow & melodies that even resemble tunes like Elton John has written, only delivered in a much more Les Claypool-esque sound. You all getting’ what I’m puttin’ down here? Star Zero Pound sets the artistic, unique and atmospheric tone immediately with “Grand Prismatic Pool” with really impressive guitar tones and overall composition quickly making a valid & verifiable impact. No doubt about Tim’s imagination, that’s for sure…a track like “Grand Prismatic Pool” takes a lot of work to write successfully and an equal amount of effort in bringing it to life through the performance – he does a great job of getting this debut off to a compelling start.
The building intensity in “You Want It” is what I absolutely love to hear personally. This song is so damn smart and subtle you could play chess with it! When we’re talking about unique atmosphere in music, this is essentially what we’re hopefully referring to…something that sounds like “You Want It” – this track is ALL about the atmosphere. My ears honestly couldn’t have been happier with this tune…the mix, the production, the clarity of the GNARLIEST sounds, the brilliance in the sparse vocals, the rad beat, the searing guitar tones…and again, an altogether experience in sound that takes you right out of your own world and off into the stratosphere & space with Star Zero Pound. Highly effective mix of texture and sound…completely captivating and interesting to listen to at all times – “You Want It” might not exactly have a date with the radio any time soon but it sure has a place on my playlist & I suspect I won’t be alone once this album is officially released. Seriously impressive and anti-typical in every way a song can be – Star Zero Pound sets out to make art here and completely succeeds with a brilliant tune.
The madness breaks-way into the smooth sound of “Batteries,” with gorgeous bass-tones and dreamy vocals leading the way. Lyrically, Tim’s got a lot of seriously Syd Barrett-kind of colorful ideas in his music…”Batteries” floats along sweetly echoing in its own melody and atmosphere and hypnotically holding you firmly in the flow. By the time this third tune reaches its middle, there’s no doubt about what you’re listening to at this point…the progressive style of Tim’s writing leaves the songs to becoming full-on experiences rather than searching for a quick & easy hook. Again considering that he’s playing every one of these instruments from drums to bass to keyboards and guitar all while writing the material and singing it as well…I mean, c’mon…what else can you possibly ask for? “Batteries” still has a few hooks of its own in the verse that work a subtle magic…but if hooks in the vocal department are all that you’re ever looking for then you’re missing more than half of what music has to truly offer. LISTEN to the way that “Batteries” evolves from what sounds like a gentle groove & melodic rhythm and straight on into an explosion of solos and wildly expressive instrumentation at the end. WHY do I say LISTEN? Because by the end, “Batteries” kicks that much ass that it should have a tourism sign dedicated to welcoming you to the town it was written in…or planet it was written on…you get the idea.
“Under Contract” fills Tim’s contractual obligations and pleases the lawyers with a more straight-ahead and down-to-earth guitar-solo cut, something more akin to what you’d find in some of the shorter, space-driven melodies on a Steve Vai record. Alright that’s probably not ALL true…he’s probably not out to please the suits’n’ties or corporations exactly…but there’s inarguably a lot of accessibility in this instrumental and the Vai comparison isn’t that far off in his calmer moments. Tim ultimately keeps the performance a respectful one…he’s not ultra-flashy, but I’d definitely argue that he is ultra-innovative and highly creative…I’m more than fine with a trade-off like that. “Under Contract” has those sweet-meets-searing guitar-tones that ring out harshly & beautifully in a wonderful contrast…the whole song, one of the shorter tracks on the record, really comes out sounding like an innocent & honest moment in time. For those audiophiles out there like me…those guitar tones on “Under Contract” are going to completely hit the mark for you – I couldn’t take my ears off’em.
Star Zero Pound continues with “Behind Your Eyes,” one of the record’s more ambitious tunes. It’s an interesting structure and composition…somewhere between indie-bands like The Quality Of Mercury and The Danbury Lie…but listen to how the vocals are used here. They begin in the tune almost immediately, disappear through the bulk of the song and come back for one real blast of energy somewhere just past the middle…I’d say they’re almost like an afterthought if I didn’t believe that Tim ultimately makes a sort of statement by writing like this…almost as if suggesting a theme for your brain to mull over while it listens to the wild instrumentation and musicianship to follow. I’m not entirely sure that’s his intentions mind you…but the theory still certainly applies…I loved the way that “Behind Your Eyes” breaks into keyboards, gentle percussion and guitars after that first wave of vocals and the sonic adventure that the song takes you on from there. Proficient and profession on every instrument, Tim’s got some great bass-lines rolling through “Behind Your Eyes” while the guitars sear, scorch & explore the atmosphere overtop of the beat. It’s got jazzy elements, it’s got space-rock elements goin’ on…and of course, the hallmarks of progressive rock as it cleverly blends a ton of ideas into a truly colorful swirl of vivid sound, including a killer ending over its final two-minutes. That being said – I also think “Behind Your Eyes” has one of the best moments for Tim’s vocals in that second set you find in this song…he’s upfront, confident and commanding this tune in between the third & fourth minute and that sounds great too. Solid tune with lots to offer in the mix of spectacular sounds and a great performance overall.
As many of you know, I do my best not to play favorites so much as I try to objectively comment on the songs as we all might hear them…but when it comes to “Morning Rays” I have a hard time not proclaiming this to be the number one tune on the entire record. Were it not for the all-out radness of “You Want It” and the extraordinary conclusion and epicness of “Batteries” the choice would perhaps be a bit simpler…but truly I’m spoiled for choice here in the stunning universe of sounds that Star Zero Pound has to offer and that’s mighty OK with me. “Morning Rays” is a real beautiful moment in time…so intensely gentle and captivating to listen to…great clarity in the mix and spectacular ideas in virtually all the instrumentation you hear. The shift in sound just past the three-thirty mark absolutely blew my mind…I think that’s the best transition on the record hands down, leading the way to even more rad solo-work from the guitars and highly imaginative elements added into the mix from the keys. Another track that highlights Tim’s capabilities when it comes to creating moving structures instrumentally…”Morning Rays” absolutely puts some of his best on crystal-clear display for all to hear.
“Being Someone” is another quick glimpse into the bizarre-side of Star Zero Pound at just over ninety-seconds in length – but you’ll certainly notice it’s just as entertaining as the rest are to experience. A short combination of smooth-jazz, blues and experimental music all rolled into one – I’ll fully admit it’s almost a strange one to have included on this record, but I’ll also admit that every time it came around on the playlist I was interested right away. So in that sense, it makes sense I suppose, know what I mean? Plus – how rad is that subtle shift at the very end of the song…almost like it was going to launch into another gear entirely…and then after mere seconds, “Being Someone” ends. I think this track more than any other shows just how willing Tim is to venture off to the left while the others turn right…he’s clearly capable of a ton of creativity and satisfying ideas & execution – but sometimes like on this track, he just gives you a mere taste.
Truthfully I was a little more indifferent towards the album’s final track “Most Of Your Time” – it had its moments…maybe a few questionable beats on the drums and a bit meandering at times, not as sure overall if the vocal melody so closely matching the music on this one worked for me as much. Huge props to the rad keyboard solo throughout the fourth minute and into the fifth – that worked for me big-time. I think Tim’s doing what Tim does really well still…I think it’s the price being paid for having some seriously rad tunes from earlier on outshine this final cut a little…not saying “Most Of Your Time” isn’t worth “Most Of Your Time.” I mean…don’t like, watch TV or something in the background while you’re listening…it’s still a satisfying ending to what’s been a unique experience the entire time. “Most Of Your Time” has a sleepier melody and approach…and of all the songs on Star Zero Pound it definitely does make the most sense as the ending to the entire experience – the entire album is laid-out really well, moving, shape-shifting and transitioning between worlds & fully willing to explore every moment.
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