A Journal Of The Dark Arts
As i sit and type this, the world is a wall of white and green, outside my window. In my bedroom, however, there is a sunburst, a burning crimson sunrise, courtesy of San Jose producer/photographer/poet Zachary Sid.
As i’ve mentioned in the past, every time i get a submission in my inbox, there is a mixture of excitement and cold dread in the pit of my guts. Excitement, as this is mainly the reason i got into this avocation in the first place, as i have an insatiable hunger for new sounds, and a curious mind. I like to hear what people are up to, and to help spread the word. It helps young and hungry musicians, i benefit as a writer, and as an empathetic Human Being, and basically, everyone wins. But there is the chance that the submissions may be utter disposable trash, all style and no substance, designed only as radio filler or trying to make it on a car commercial, and i may have to be the voice of reason, and shatter their delusions (which i always try and do in as helpful way as possible). Every time i get an e mail with somebody’s music contained within, there is the feeling, “o Gods, i may have to shatter this young hopeful’s expectations, if only to tell them to try harder.”
I needn’t have worried, in Zachary’s case, as this is music that i enjoy, that i would listen to on my own time, would go see live if he were to visit my beautiful Portland, Or. In a way, Zachary Sid is a beautiful illustration of what it means to be a Forestpunk. His music is not confined by names, labels or genres. He is not merely trying to fit in with an established scene, to gain money and fame. Instead, he is using the toolbox of the electronic music producer to construct surreal and poetic narratives, uncaged by language, free to explode in your imagination.
“Destination” leads things off, on the self-titled EP, as a joyride through a carpet of stars, as a mercurial sun hangs, frozen, in mid-air. It is both rushing and static, simulating the peace of moving quickly, like the eye of a storm, or an event horizon. The beats are light and fluttering, with just the right amount of growling sub-bass, managing to be soothing and trancey, rather than monstrous and thuggish, like dubstep.
Some anonymous reviewer claimed that Zachary Sid gets TOO ambient, at times. If you’ve spent any time on these pages (and if you haven’t, welcome! Have a look around!), you’ll know that there’s basically no such thing, in this shadowy realm. “Resurrection” shivers and floats in a timeless sea, like waiting to be reborn. It makes you feel as if yr watching the world through the waves; peaceful, with just a flicker of dread.
“The Sun Rising Backwards” stands the greatest chance of being a break-out hit, as it has a recognizable, albeit broken, beat and shows the producer’s deft hand, with vaportrails of phaser and flange streaking the horizon line. In the beats, you can sense Sid’s musical/engineering instincts, as there is not a harsh edge to be found. Every sound on this short, imaginative EP has been lovingly smoothed, sanded, polished and fitted together, like a silken jigsaw puzzle. There is nothing to jar you out of it’s opium spell, nothing to break the haze. If anything, you fall deeper and deeper into the realms of Zachary Sid’s imagination with each successive listen.
I get the impression that there is not necessarily a concrete storyline behind these particular EPs – they strike me as sound poems and experiments, an area of which electronic music is particularly adept. Synthesizers and recording technology give even the most meager producer complete control over sound at a molecular level, giving us the potential to blend science and Art to an unheard-of degree. A new form of Alchemy.
“Devils,” released in December of 2013, a full 13 months after Zachary Sid is a far more rhythmic affair, paralleling the state of electronic music into House and Techno territory. This is not the polished chrome of Detroit Techno, though, this is the sunny exotic Trance Techno, that sounds like dancing on the beach of sunset, that reminds me of some of Bonobo‘s work, or perhaps Mount Kimbie. There’s a flavor of club-friendly dubstep here, in the formant subbass, and to be honest, i’m glad. I was a total devotee of dubstep, as it was emerging, and it broke my heart to watch it dragged through the mud, to succumb to generefication and trite formulas. It got to the point where most established producers or DJs wouldn’t touch dubstep with a 50 foot hose, and we forget the sheer power and potential of bass frequencies and volume (something which Sunn O))) also taught us). Although i equally adore a lot of the house and techno flavors en vogue at the moment, i’d like to see an amalgam of all forms, to take the best of every underground dance form of the last 30 years, and splice them together into beautiful exotic mutant hybrids. I think Zachary Sid’s music takes steps towards healing that schism.
ZS is an endessly creative individual. If you poke around his website, you’ll see that he’s a photographer and that he’s got a book of poetry in the works. He’s got something to express, and when you’re personally driven, you will always continue, always evolving new ways of saying what you’re trying to say. This is the path of True Art, and i predict, as a species we will be moving continually more in that direction. Yr not gonna get too rich or famous, playing atmospheric electronic music (although we should), and the pretenders will hang it up, and go it into banking, or some other field that isn’t crumbling (good luck finding one). What is left standing will be some of the strongest art History has ever known, mark my words. I, for one, will never stop, and i know Zachary Sid won’t either.
Fans of Autechre‘s polished futurism, Boards Of Canada‘s faded romanticism, or Four Tet’s colorful exoticism will find a lot to tear into, here. Music for burners, music for dreamers. Music for moving and music for sitting still.
Sid’s got a boatload of music on his bandcamp, which i will be devouring hungrily. You’d be advised to do the same, and expect to hear more about this young man.