In the days of 1940s film noir and existential philosophers, French artists and German experimentalists were creating their own visions out of dreamscapes and emptiness. Out of their pockets came dark, brooding, and emotionless works of art that caused the whole world to go, “Oooh, ahh,” and, “Oh my, that’s spooky.” It was, for the most part, original, challenging the minds of café intelligistas to broaden their already pretentious scope on things. And that period in time could never, EVER, be duplicated.
That unwritten, but well-known, fact, however, hasn’t stopped Chicago band Zelienople from recording their latest endeavor Ink. Like an existential nightmare that only Jean Paul Sartre could dream up, Zelienople has released an album that is a bitter mixture of ambient disparity and droning cadence. And like the black and white crime dramas of the film noir explosion, the music within Ink is monochromatic, with each song unnoticeably flowing into the next. But the harrowing emptiness beneath the texture of Zelienople’s sound is as unconventional as the instruments they use – suspension cables and an artillery shell – so a little similarity could be forgivable.
Even still, the slow, meandering pulses of the Chicago quartet’s record is entirely strange and uncompromisingly vivid. The echoing vocals on “It’s Still Hard to Steal Cars” and “Life is Simple” can get under your skin, making the listening experience almost unbearable. The title track, “Ink,” is four-plus minutes of crooning guitar work that is musically sullen, as if absent memories have found their way into a whirlpool of perplexing harmonic arrangements and surreal design. But, in the spirit of intermission, Ink is rounded out with an idealistic and dreamy number – “Boxes on Shores” – that is rich with guitars and percussion, exuding a incredible sense of longing that is eerily similar to a Barbara Stanwyck flick.