Zoogz Rift

Nonentity (Water III: Fan Black Dada)

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The cover photo of Zoogz Rift looking pensively through tree branches might lead you to wonder if the famously angry and eccentric guitarist had released a sensitive, low-key album. The surprising answer is yes, he did -- at least, by his standards. Throughout Nonentity, Rift sings in a more relaxed, conventional style than at any other point in his career, and he's surprisingly affecting -- the normally confrontational, forbidding artist allows a bit of yearning and playfulness into his material. Unusually, much of that material is written by other people -- Rift covers three Tim Buckley tunes and one song by his frequent collaborator, John Trubee. The latter number, "When My Ship Rolls In," is the high point of the album. Though this version doesn't have the lush orchestration that Trubee gave it on his own album, the quieter, more intimate setting fits the song very well. Elsewhere, Zoogz Rift plays around a bit -- though he hates being compared to Frank Zappa, "Chromium Slit Negatives" is very reminiscent of Zappa's '60s rock parodies. Those who purchased the vinyl version of Nonentity only got the material which appeared on side one of the cassette or the first half of the CD version. The second half is mostly taken up with a rambling instrumental that is by turns fascinating and frustrating, as accordionist Rocky Howard keeps breaking into "Roll out the Barrel" in the middle of a rock jam, with various other bandmembers collaborating or playing countermelodies. It's a piece of lighthearted fun that fits Nonentity, an album that doesn't abandon Zoogz Rift's quest to awaken his audience, but tries a different strategy.

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