Mikey Maramag, as the wizard behind Blackbird Blackbird, is laying us back out in the ocean again with his newest single, “Tear” – and if the waters decorating the Bay Area had a soundtrack, I wouldn’t expect to hear much else roll out of them.
Fidgety electronic breaks and their white noise delineate breathy pads that are foaming slightly at the mouth but remaining tranquil all the while, as post-surfing guitar licks drone out with coruscated keys that drizzle down; just enough to cool things off, not enough to bring any fear of mugginess thereafter. The sand stays warm and there’s never a need for a pillow.
As a dreamy taste from his upcoming EP, “Boracay Planet,” there’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of this same complacency is on the way, solely due to Blackbird Blackbird proving time after time that it always gets better.
Reviewing Zunk is like reviewing a gryphon. Or, like trying to differentiate a gryphon from a griffin; is it the noble, regal gryphon that has human speaking abilities and graces church pillars? Or is it the griffin – the breathtaking, animalistic beast that survives on its instincts? What am I even supposed to examine and contrast it to – an eagle? A lion? That is if I can even find one. Those damn things are elusive…
Zunk is nearly equally as illusory and esoteric as the gryphon (griffin). He’s a few tracks on Bandcamp. He’s a disappearing and reappearing set on SoundCloud. He’s a zipped folder in a private, unmarked email. And he is rarely identifiable by ear alone, due to a zeal for multigenre exploration even within the space of one track.
A trip to the Zunk SoundCloud is a perfect example of what I’m attempting to illustrate here. The first seat on his tracks page, “Assault the Vowel,” shows off a throaty voice made for guttural rock ballads set against an acoustic guitar. The very next track has euro-trash swagger, and several spaces down is a fantastic, meticulous cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” My personal favorite tunes to be found on Zunk’s SoundCloud don’t even have official titles. “Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 (excerpt)” begins with the words “I think I’m going to blow your car up (that’s right), so maybe you would walk with me” on top of an accordion having a tryst with an urban soundtrack of sirens and grinding train wheels. “Friday, April 8th, 2011” is an awesome and absurd gypsy-like traipse, also featuring the accordion.
A constant in Zunk’s lyrically driven pieces is an evident affinity for storytelling. Which stories are autobiographical is blurry, and each yarn has a dark tint. His singer-songwriter pieces seem to evade and reject his often bubbly and bright electronic alter-ego. Some great, albeit harder to find electro-indie songs include the Bandcamp collaboration between Zunk and Render the Galaxy “Hyperparoxysms” and original piece “I Heard You Were a Mess.”
In the span of a Zunk listening session, one thing really crystallizes in my mind: he knows how to craft a song from beginning to end. No matter the genre, he has a mysterious aptitude for structure and beat. A basic instinct.
Listen, Or I’ll Forget You: A Constructive Disadvantage
by Zak Freed
There was always something there… and in such a way that where even the everyday, common and predictable operations from her would introduce some sort of endearing liveliness into my corpse with more soul than an entire legion of angels could ever hope to imbue me with, even in their most assertive moments of trying.
Inspiration would saturate me on all fronts from every dynamistic movement made and I always knew exactly where it came from; her stories consistently meshed right into mine – with a flow heavier than the worst of any woman on earth – and I could taste that disgusting tension from miles away, like a hypersensitive apocalypse of a storm approaching the quaint shore at my side. A constant stream of lightning bolts striking while proper modes and theories behind them would melt around a spontaneously picked tempo, leaving my heart to vomit all over the gritty tape that was spinning in the background. What beauty! What luscious waves of light! She swallowed me whole and knew that she had.
“This one’s for you” was a phrase that would often ride the current into most tunes, splashing about with the extraordinarily influential vibe that was always present behind it. The whiskey in my left hand would shape provocative motions in sight of the cigarette in my right while I’d make myself very openly dedicated to arranging emotional points for the siren… the focus, the muse:
A lambent and sometimes leather-clad blackbird creature of sorts that would slither up the back of my chair to nest itself into my shoulder for optimal control over the movements of my upper limbs around whatever instrument happened to be in my lap at the time. She would chirp bad news into my ear more than often, but always had words of hope to follow up with, you know… and I’d hate to think of anything bad ever befalling her, but I don’t think that she’s able to get hurt. Even still, she would let me know of the protection that sounds, in general, would provide her with – and how necessary they really were.
With everything said, there are still so many things that I wish she would have spoken up more about; good or bad. What a shame, to have to ask the “What if?” questions after such invigorating experiences have already been digested.
You’ve almost done it all, though – somehow – and you’ll do it all again in a different way here pretty soon. Keep sinking your teeth into me… continue to let me know what it is to feel so dreadfully cursed from your spells that I can’t even think straight. Let me understand, without a word said, that I’m still able to stab you in the chest while you do the same to me for nothing more than the gruesome, comedic value that will sonorously circumvent it.
I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep for, but it didn’t seem to me that I had missed very much… A breeze creeping in through the space in my poorly-installed, forty year old window frame had probably swept some kind of phantom virus in with it as well… and so then the pressure in my head naturally backed up my theory enough to satisfy the early, yet logical outlook on the reason to why I couldn’t smell my roommate’s breakfast being cooked a few feet away from me. Regardless of what my anti-winter coat might have said about my sudden cold, I had still solved a mystery that, – to my recent understanding – only the landlord’s answering machine was clearly ever going to hear about. The coffee brewed quickly and cigarettes rolled tightly while I gladly accepted the fresh and supposedly organic breakfast burrito that my Dr. Seuss pajama-clad partner in crime had presented to me: Two hundred and fifty degrees of comfort, if just for a moment.
A nearby train slowed underground, complimenting my yawn with a screech while the sounds of that ole’ hip-hop greeted me with a smile and probably also with the cheapest beer that money couldn’t ever buy in its hands. This ruckus might not be what I would choose to listen to every single morning of my life… and as soon as I wake up… but 1B sure openly decides to jam it on a constant basis, and so I’ve naturally adapted the grimy routine as well. Ancient, pre family-oriented Ice Cube is my guilty pleasure, after all.
We will all find rituals through our daily lives, on some level or another, and all of these little things that commonly pattern themselves out probably have more of an impact on how our days execute themselves than we might realize. Unscheduled sounds of car stereos passing by and boom-boxes under the earth while we’re out and about may plant a seed in our brains that we will search for and download later, but there will always be the go-to and often unavoidable sources for inspiration and familiar wake-up bells that will never fail us just the same.
Let’s face it: we all have favorite artists that the people around us have got to be getting sick of by now.
I was on my way to cash an incredibly insignificant check when instead I got stuck listening to this old man at the stop playing a Ruan lute. He looked the part for the sounds that it made, too… Mustaches like the one this guy had have got to hold some kind of ancient, magical power – and judging by how old this instrument in particular seemed to be to me, it probably took him two hundred thousand years to really be able to harness its glory.
Oh, how I do love musically serendipitous days… and I can’t help but to feel blessed in those moments!
When the iPod is dead – a traveling factor that when turned on would otherwise just have me droning around as routinely silent on an everyday trip as the other pile of faces acting the same way, staring downwards – I will always be pulled towards the ambient and common calls of this city and the sometimes life-changing impact of its super heroes.
I’ve learned a lot about life and methods that drive it from the homeless. I remember living in Indianapolis for a couple of years, where I first found my love for sharing unfortunate stories. I’d take the bus from E. 33rd downtown to go loiter around outside of Circle Center, where it was always a pretty musical area in the open air and at all times of the year. Sax players, bagpipe guy, my doppelganger banging out tomorrow’s IDM beats on drywall buckets, and plenty of other down-lucked performers who had plenty to say were definitely a better date than most local bars. Where it’s cheaper to put your favorite whiskey into an empty two liter bottle of coke when you go out; what I loved and learned the most from my friends was that they had lost everything. There were no belongings, their families were gone and they had no one to confide in…but they still had their instruments and in those moments they were always thankful for that, while I was just the same.
A lot of people take something as simple as music for granted, and why not? It’s everywhere, it’s not going anywhere, you aren’t going to ever lose it; but there is a different love for it with those of us that depend on it. We live for it, and will die in its absence. It’s not background noise, it isn’t a time-waster, and it’s not just something we’re involved with because we think it’s cool, either. I would gladly give up anything in this world in a heartbeat, and I would sooner explode myself than not be able to write and also listen to the vibes and happenings of other kindred spirits.
Most points of life in almost all forms of artists are sharpened by their ability to install that “just letting go” philosophy into their heads. Nothing is held in, and it sure as hell shouldn’t ever be watered down. This process is followed through not just by alcohol alone, but also by the fact that carving out your guts to thoroughly explain something can just feel good. I think that in most songs out there, the artist will have absolutely had someone in mind that they wanted to have heard it first: Friends, lovers, haters… whoever it might be. So when you not only have this starting point that’s totally devoid of distractions and false advertisements, and you hone that in on someone in particular, you will always give a personal and truthful meaning to what you’re doing.
No matter what you play when something like this sets you in motion, or how good you are or are not at what you do; it will always result in pure, realistic sound.
Just like that message you sent to someone that afterwards you wished you hadn’t, I find myself with piles of songs that are exactly the same thing. I enjoy communicating this way for a couple of reasons:
The first is that the person I’ve composed something for may not ever hear it, which in the case of a mood-change would definitely be a plus. Otherwise, for everything I’ve said above, I enjoy that something so personal can have the potential be defined in so many other ways by unintended listeners. I’ll keep on talking to the world, useless phrases or not, because I won’t shut up.
” as I go through each day, I make a point to document some of my own [tragedies]… and maybe theirs, should they also belong to me.”
I think about what it means to write a song sometimes, and then how for me to get into all of the different methods or reasons involved in the many processes would take a series of novels. Still, I think that the easiest concept for anyone to grasp out of, or to put towards a tune, is the often prevalent rule of tragedy. There can’t possibly be a more common type of a reoccurring event in any given person’s life than this unwritten guideline to most compositions – whether it’s realized or not – and so as I go through each day, I make a point to document some of my own… and maybe theirs, should they also belong to me.
It first takes something or someone bold enough to enliven my soul before any situation is able to dissolve into a dissatisfying mess of an idea. I love those instances where a day becomes everything about what was, what shouldn’t have happened and what could possibly be established again with some assertive wording. Where I would be without personal failures is a scary thought. I haven’t ever been able to fully understand and appreciate love, fun, or contentment on any level without burning some good things to the ground first. So, you know, why not select to do this every now and then?
For every tragic line from someone that shocked my heart, there was always an awful tale that came before it. The inspiration that gave birth to a song probably started off well; then it crashed, got drunk and recorded itself in a trance… sometime after that it crawled into your ears and laid down, naked and flat, to give you another perspective on your own, incredible stories. It truly is an awesome cycle what these songs we love and/or create can and will go through. Even the good-hearted adventures will have their gritty undertones that remind you of the compulsory trials you’ve got to wade through eventually… and like I said, there’s no enjoyment without those nuisances anyway.
In all of self-expression’s grievous tones and slight moments of joviality (which at times either occasion can be set through the sacrificing of treasures held close), I will always be able to sit down afterwards, drill out a handful of speculative and sometimes rhetorical minutes, and shed light on what may become of me. The power is always turned on, my guitars are always within reach, and a blank notepad is always open while a subtle, “Dear (insert name), you are always haunting me,” leads in to most opening and terribly formal letters. Where something like that is far from being unheard of, it’s also entirely unavoidable for my type. We have all had these heart-warming bits somewhere in our lives, or at least I would like to think that. What a shame for those of you who haven’t had a proverbial wrecking ball swing through your chest – which if you haven’t, then I doubt that you’re a human, and I’m not sure how you read – but what a feeling, and what incentive to sit down and write those times really do present to us. I figure that after saying that, my subconscious may act in collusion against itself at times to purposefully find those hapless endings – solely for the reason that I reflect back on them with sound. Some people call this self-destruction, but I call it a fools goldmine. I gain nothing, and they become immortalized through electrically taped headphones.
My favorite part about the creation of music is how distorted the original meaning and feeling behind a song can become. This brings to mind a game that I played in pre-school, where someone is given a line that they whisper into the ear of the person next to them… and so on subsequently around the room with everyone until, in most cases, “Spaghetti and meatballs” has turned into something like… “Swarthy mermaids”. Once you reached that point there were only a handful of people, or possibly just the original whisperer that knew how it started. Everyone else just gave it their best shot. So where most songs are meant for one’s personal defining to begin with, and where some are too straight-forward for any other interpretations to evolve; I still enjoy knowing that after something of mine leaves the cutting board, I’m the only one who truly knows why it ever did.
Incorporated styles will drive themselves in with some sort of aggressive outside force while I close my eyes over keyboards and let go of the day. That moment right there is probably more of what it’s all about than anything else.
You sit down, take a deep breath: then light a cigarette and run a hand through the hair to shake off some stress, take a sip and let your soul do the talking.