By Chuck LeGros
During the 1989 political collapse of the Polish United Worker’s Party and the rest of Communist East Europe, the brutal, gun wielding police force known as “Zomo” was infamous for crushing the advancements of Polish civil rights from behind their metal and glass riot shields. Working ruthlessly to stem any question brought against the Communist regime, Zomo operated, completely unfettered, for nearly 40 years. I suppose, realistically, I’m one of the few nerds who actually reads the Wikipedia articles about things like this (building up the Jeopardy arsenal), but the question remains, how does one get from putting down insurrections to picking up guitars?
There’s a discernable progression through For the Muses. It begins with an embrace of a new, fresh sound -- something best described as an electronic punk. Recorded in early 2003, Zomo’s For the Muses opens with the hypnotic, yet furious, guitar and percussion of “I Am a Rock.” Justin Hoenke’s voice has a breathy, abstemious breed of singing, that, at times, seems to disappear in the mix. The sounds all have the potential to achieve an enveloping musical texture, but they instead appear out of focused and murkily layered on top of each other. The drums and guitar take turns drowning Hoenke’s voice, robbing it of the chance to shine in its song. Even with those drawbacks though, “I Am a Rock” immediately sets the mood for the rest of the album—simple, no-nonsense instrumentation reinforced by distant vocals.
There seems to be seeds from a different genus of plant buried deep inside of the minds of Justin Hoenke and Dustin Miller. In “Breakdown,” the third song on the album, Zomo is reaching for a distinct sound but with uncertainty methods. The more I listen, the more the layered approach of sound becomes evident. There is something tangible here, something outside of the restrained, pseudo-Nu Gaze that flavors the majority of their sound.
This is audible in “Window” with a more monotone, Interpol-ish sound in Hoenke’s voice. The instrumentation in the song envelopes a multitude of well crafted sounds which keeps ones attention and supports the lyrics. It is the first song on the album that moves. The test, of course, is to see if they can stick in this new comfort zone long enough for it to count.
We check back in several tracks later with “All That I Want is you.” The beginning—so far, so good and, overall, Hoenke is clearly manipulating his voice well. It’s certainly a step in the right direction. There is still, at this point in Zomo’s life, a roughness that runs around Zomo’s edges, and much fine tuning must be had but the fact that there is something to fine tune at all is excellent. In fact, viewed with seven years of hindsight, For the Muses seems like less of an official album and more of an experiment, a conglomeration of varied songs with weak threads connecting them. Though there are those which stand bolder and tighter than the rest. But there is a reaching, a forward motion, a movement toward musical progress.
Next stop, four years later (2007). Zomo has come out with Triangle of Drunk. Starting out with an oddly named four and a half minute long ditty—“This Is My Life in An A-Frame House.” Zomo decided to go the electronic root… to the umpteenth degree. They are somewhere in between Animal Collective and Of Montreal. Hoenke’s monotone persists with hard hitting guitar and percussion. It has potential, but ends up getting lost in its own orbit and flowing, seemingly forever, into a cycle of beats and lyrics. Towards their credit, Zomo clearly grew up since they’re 2003 debut, but they’re by no means finished. If anything 2003, finds them in the middle of an awkward teenage stage where the realization of life’s hardships is hitting them in the face.
“Black Little Face”(Number Four on the album) is an odd little piece, to say the least, but oddly satisfying. They’re beginning to settle into a sound with this track, even though it is significantly slower than the rest of the album.
In the end, Triangle of Drunk is much like For the Muses in its continued experimentation. However, it shows distinct progress in overall feel and exudes a greater confidence and comfort which only adds to the experience. Zomo is still in a sometimes awkward area of self exploration, albeit one which can and does create distinctly flavorful, unique, and enjoyable music. Zomo is certainly worth keeping an eye on, though that eye at times must be patient. With enough consideration, it would only make sense that Zomo finds itself in its own finely tuned and ruggedly idiosyncratic world of energetic music.
Purchase For The Muses and Triangle of Drunk at CDBaby
Listen to Zomo at Reverbnation