By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"Experimental" is a frequently misapplied term when it comes to music. But when it comes to Zanzibar Snails—the brainchild of former Dallas Observer freelancer Michael Chamy on shortwave, oscillators and generators and guitarist Nevada Hill—there's hardly a more fitting word. Their performances are improvised, combining elements as earthy and familiar as viola and acoustic guitar with otherworldly sounds like screeching electronics and disembodied voices picked up on a shortwave.
Brown Dwarf is a live recording of a performance at Hailey's in Denton, although you'd never know it, as there's absolutely no crowd noise as Chamy and Hill are aided by Seth Sherman on acoustic guitar and Josh McWhirter on viola and tapes. It's a single composition of tuneless viola, short-wave transmissions, buzzing electronics and a single guitar chord hypnotically strummed for what seems like forever.
It drones on for 34 minutes, divided into five tracks. Ambient soundscapes consisting solely of white noise and the occasional guitar note stretch on for minutes at a time. But just as you get comfortable, the calm is broken by a jarring outburst of distressed electronics or frantic viola abuse. Alternately distressing and soothing, Brown Dwarf is an immersive and perversely enjoyable experience.
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