Karl Blau

Karl Blau's Zebra might as well have been called Chameleon.

From one song to the next, you'll hear dry folk, acid jazz, bedroom shoegaze, lo-fi pop and all types of me-against-the-world solo production that falls in line with Blau's history as a Northwest analog guru. According to Blau, an Anacortes, Washington, native, Zebra was created in homage to African music. Really? Well, you're going to have to dig deep to hear that in the first few listens. But subtly, it emerges, whispering in the blues harmonica of "All Over Town," which sounds like music for hopping a freight train, or in the '70s blaxploitation vibe of "Waiting for the Wind," which Melvin van Peebles might borrow at any minute.

Aside from that, the disc has a more distinctly blustery Northwest feel than anything. On "Free the Bird," Blau's vocal style sounds eerily similar to Kurt Cobain's, and "Welcome in NW" is all stoner rock. Zebra's strongest moments come when Blau's quirks as a producer and singer-songwriter are so free-form that the singular nature of the music can be appreciated. But don't expect to be clubbed over the head with the music of the Serengeti.

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Jonathan Cunningham