erasing clouds

Deep Dark United, Zettel, Fools!

reviewed by Dave heaton

The notebook page filled with scribblings which forms part of the cover art for Deep Dark United's debut album Zettel looks like the Hollywood version of the telltale signs of a mind that's unraveled into insanity. That's fitting, in a way; Alex Lukaskevsky, who on Zettel is Deep Dark United, could be the most stable, sanest person you'll ever meet, who knows, but his songs are a portrait in confusion and instability. Zettel is a sonic notebook of a person wrestling with the world and its meaning, walking the line between what it means to be normal and crazy, between what society expects of us and what we're capable of.

The 15 songs on Zettel are spiritually connected to acoustic blues, gospel and folk traditions but also abstract and rambling, prone to detours and off-road explorations. Lukashevsky croons, screams, whispers, yelps and growls songs that are accentuated with percussion, piano, werid noises electronic beeps and free-jazz sax.

"I go to sleep, I'm somebody, somebody/I wake up, I wanna be a nobody," Lukashevsky sings on one track ("A Nobody"). These conflicting feelings about what to be, what to do, how to feel, are at the heart of Zettel, all the way up to the lengthy final track, which is both direct emotional release and post-modern cut-up experimentation. Running beneath all of the stops and starts, the feedback and whistles, is a straightforward acoustic guitar-backed expression of the longing to improve. "Rescue me," he sings, "My spirit will not sway." Yet the shifting nature of the song turns even this seemingly-direct plea into a quandry--"is he really singing about spiritual redemption or did he just mention wanting to go fishing?" I ask myself at one point. From start to end, Zettel is a portrait of nonconformity and freedom of expression, as well as a meditation on the accompanying battles, internal and external.

Deep Dark United's more recent release, the Fools! EP, involves the same themes and moods, yet everything is on a larger scale, blown-up. Now a genuine band, with 6 members, Deep Dark United has given more fullness to their songs, in turn making them more captivating and overpowering. Fools! begins with the stunning "Mental Case Blues," a freeform improv jazz track with a more straightforward folk-blues songs hiding underneath. The music gets increasingly dense, until Lukashevsky's voice is nearly drowned out, and then finds an eerie, unsettling peaceful, more quiet place that is nonetheless still building, squirming and screaming.

The 5 songs on Fools! united by some sound collages that make the whole EP run together; melodies are echoed from track to track, even while the styles switch from haunted waltzes to film noir jazz to Russian folk-dances and many combinations therin. There's a midnight mood and scary surrealistic bits throughout, as the group twists and turns through all sorts of musical places. Deep Dark United take the in-your-face-ness of punk, the introspectiveness of modern-day "folk," and timelessness of older folk traditions and the wild energy of improvised jazz and run them through their own personal eccentricities, making music that embodies individuality while reflecting a wide array of exciting musical traditions.


Issue 10, July 2002 | next article

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