Zerx Records & Press



Zerx Releases
Reviewed by Dan Warburton

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Although I'm no big fan of plastic jewel boxes, it's a shame that Zerx have to release their albums in their customary cardboard sleeves (for budgetary reasons, I suppose): a photo of a gorgeous New Mexico skyscape would have been a nice idea for J.A. Deane's "Never Never Land". In 1999 Deane was commissioned to provide music to accompany four screenings of the 1932 silent film version of "Peter Pan". Directing his ten-piece band à la Butch Morris (whose conduction methods he knows well), Deane ended up with four different versions of the music, which he mixed together for this album. Some tracks, including the poignant and extremely beautiful "Belonging" (Alicia Ultan's viola and Courtney Smith's harp recall the pastoral world of Debussy's 1916 Sonata), use just one ensemble version, others overlay the four versions to create a dense and occasionally somewhat muddy orchestral sound. The musicians play superbly (soprano saxophonist Tom Guralnick is on smoking form throughout) and Deane's sampling and mixing is tasty. All he has to do now is sell it to Disney.

Zerx head honcho, poet, guitarist and KUNM Albuquerque DJ Mark Weber is also one of the prime movers behind the avant country of the Bubbadinos, whose fondness for oddball instrumentation (weird backwards guitars, accordions, jaw's harp, tuba and shakuhachi battle it out) inevitably recalls Tom Waits (though Weber's voice is more like Eugene Chadbourne on downers). Like Waits at his best, these songs get right under your skin: the banshee wailing guitars on "Walking Mood" give way to Mary Redhouse's fabulous vocals on Jim Lauderdale's "You Don't Seem to Miss Me". Redhouse (a better choice as guest vocalist than Gretchen Parlato on the earlier Bubbas outing "Ready As We'll Ever Be") sounds like she's been locked out of her trailer out in the desert and forced to survive on a diet of cactus. The album is packed full of fabulous moments and memorable lyrics ("it's quiet out here at night / the crow and me are having a little drink / we can hear a guitar off in the distance playing John Coltrane's 'Equinox'.."), but for my money the sumptuous sound of bass flute, accordion and tuba on "Leaving the Nest" needs some beating. 2'35" of pure perfection. Just think: if everyone reading this goes and gets a copy, Mark can invest in some classy packaging.

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