Posted by: Necci – Sep 18, 2012
One could hardly ask for more of a complete and original live experience than a brilliantly creative songwriter performing his own music with his own video aids behind him. That was the uniquely satisfying experience of Zammuto's show at the Camel on September 6th. With such spirited yet understated percussion, particularly clever rhythmic subdivision and phrasing throughout the music, the whole is dynamically experimental and exceptionally varied. Above all, at both of the Zammuto concerts I've attended, and even listening at home without the complementary video experience (which I lamented personally to Nick Zammuto as I was buying the LP), I wore a gigantic smile the whole time. It was sometimes due to an instrumental part or sample surprise or even a lyric, but one smile that remained throughout came from the music’s earnestness.
Zammuto's self-titled debut album is highly detailed with the ten proper tracks cemented deliberately, which lends itself to a highly rewarding headphone experience, particularly on side two. Given how meticulous the studio work seems, the group’s live execution is just as much so - very tight, and the choices in accompanists are very well made. Sean Dixon’s personal touches to the diversity of rhythm throughout the set were stellar, those being the perfect blend of an energetic, improvised feel and a very mature restraint. Based on his showcase for that intimate but rowdy Camel crowd, clearly he’s had some pretty good theory foundation; one might even guess he used to play marching band music.
Keeping family close, Nick chose his younger brother Mikey to anchor these excursions on electric bass, alternating between a standard and a five-string variant. Gene Back, as the Jonny Greenwood of the group, found our ears through equally nimble guitar lines, gentle violin bits, and the majority of the whirling keyboard story. Weaving a gorgeous instrumental jam featuring some of the most uninterrupted melody in bright open-string triads, Gene's guitar duetted with Nick's, leading to the realization that skilled instrumentalists do often original music make.
The fondly-titled "Zebra Butt" is a stand-out exercise in something wickedly rockin’ building in density and intensity out of a simple bass line, while "Groan Man, Don’t Cry" has its dexterously funky guitar theme and brisk eighth feel that both curl and bounce just beneath a soaring vocal chorus. All of the lyrics have a cynically ominous source of power, which is complemented well by the often jittery and technology-laden textures. The guitar and keyboard are every bit as unique and progressive as the myriad samples and snippets used. Every facet of the music is open to some kind of auxiliary processing and manipulation, leaving very little to be bored with.
These guys are sufficiently technical players to draw more eclectic fans from the jazz/metal camps, and yet they make accessible enough music to keep the less challenge-seeking supporters around. If you’re into a sound that defies categorization and incorporates everything from King Crimson’s sinister power to The Shins’ affable embrace, Zammuto is definitely worth a listen, whether live or recorded.
By Daryl Tankersley