Earth Grid

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For those who are drawn to former Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne's blocky minimal painting, his musical alter ego as Zomes is a fitting, lo-fi counterpart. Osborne recorded under the Zomes moniker for the first time in 2008 with an album by the same name. It consisted of a keyboard, muffled tom-tom and kick drum sounds, and occasionally sampled field recordings and guitar. The results weren't songs so much as meditations on brief modal ideas. Three years later, Osborne resurrects Zomes for Earth Grid. Recorded entirely on cassette, this is once again a collection of simple melodies played on a basic keyboard (perhaps a Casiotone) and/or guitar with minimal percussive backing. The opening track -- and first single -- unimaginatively entitled "Openings" is actually a re-recording of the melody used on "Coloured Matter," from the self-titled album, though this one is up an octave and louder. Other modal ideas, such as "Spiralling," begin and end on the same note, as one very basic idea and drum loop are played throughout, with lilting shifts and shimmers in the keyboard being the only distraction. "Step Anew" explores modes in the same way Terry Riley did in the very beginning with pulsing rhythmic patterns on the keyboard juxtaposed against a percussion loop, with only four-note intervals to provide a sort of perceived "melody." Given their hypnotic repetition, these "tunes" are short -- the longest and best, "Alec's Anthem," clocks in at just over five minutes -- and should be much longer to suck the listener in deeper. That said, it doesn't feel like Osborne's trying to manipulate his listeners. In fact, he seems very focused only on these minimal soundscapes and their equally limited melodic possibilities. Depending on your disposition, Earth Grid will be either a delightfully compelling listening experience or a maddeningly dull one. Either way, Osborne's uninterested.

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