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Katastrophe Vol. 3
Incidental Music

I know you’re wondering, so here it is: Zmrzlina is the Czech word for ice cream.  I don’t think that they are from the Czech Republic though, they claim to be from San Francisco, a place where most bands are afforded more than their fair share of eccentric peculiarities.  Zmrzlina claims to be an “art band.” Now, I used to think I knew what that meant.  Usually, it meant that the only people who could listen to such… music… were those sorts of people who were willing to suffer through any sort of wretched recorded noise to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt to their other rich snobbish friends that they were indeed “avant garde.” (Imagine me making finger quotes in the air when you read avant garde.  It will make it seem like I can lay some legitimate claim to musical professorship.  You can even imagine that I have a bookcase behind me containing all the recordings of Philip Glass or Arnold Schoenberg and that my hair doesn’t look like it has been combed since 1968, the year I first dropped acid.  

You know, if it helps.)

At the root of it though, are some would-be homeless people being paid to bang on pots and send bags of marbles down a flight of metal stairs while some overrated-genius, sound engineer captures it all on tape.

But I could be wrong.  They could be ball bearings.

The first song on Katastrophe Vol. 3 should dispel any thoughts about art bands.  “Supermarket Radio” is basically a spoken word techno song whose lyrics appear to have been lifted from a ‘90s version of a Mickey Spillane novel.  Ok, so that’s weird, but is it art? (arte?)  The next few songs sound like Last Splash-era Breeders and what might happen if Fred Schneider of The B-52’s had fronted the Pixies.  I’m not sure which of their female vocalists it is who sings on “Schoolgirls”, but she sounds EXACTLY like Kim Deal used to before she smoked too many cigarettes and ruined that sweet, angelic voice.  Sigh.  (I will use this as my opportunity to implore you to not buy Title TK, the new Breeders album.  Kim can’t hold a key anymore, and the band is so lo-fi that you feel compelled to go out to the garage and unplug your son’s guitar amp.  But you have no son, he has no amp, and you’re listening in your car.  I would write a review for it but I can’t find the energy to hate it enough to thrash it.)  Anyway, whoever this girl is, I could listen to her sing Biz Markie’s Greatest Hits (if such an unholy abortion actually existed) and not grow tired of listening.  “Psychobabble” sounds suspiciously like the Pixies and is probably the song I like best.  It incorporates a musical trick of playing two competing melodies that alternate between harmony and dissonance.  Just when you think they’ve gotten out of key, they draw everything back in line.  I also like the way in which they make their bass guitar suddenly play a few bars of this competing melody and then have it slip back into the bass line.  It is surprisingly and pleasantly complex.  “Kill The Martini Drinker” also sounds Pixie-ish, but a little more punk than most of their music was.  After that however, the album loses its punk and its funk and trades it in for the mopey aimlessness of Division Bell-era Pink Floyd, which, for those who don’t know, is the point long past when the Floyds should have retired, preserving the legitimacy of their music; shielding it from their later, middle-aged meanderings.  After a couple of weeks of listening to this album, I had lost any interest in the last three songs, and I didn’t really care for Creek Lullaby either. 

Judging from the content of this CD alone, I would hazard to guess that Zmrzlina makes any old music they feel like without regard to genre or a highly discriminate audience, and that’s just fine with me.  As a music consumer, I would be willing to tolerate three or four tracks that I’m not likely to care for if, from album to album, Zmrzlina keeps their music fresh and innovative with little bits of pop-punk-funk-techno to keep their artistic aspirations grounded in blue-collar sensibility.  They do that a few times on “Katastrophe Vol. 3”.   Overall, I can see myself picking this out of the stack for a quick spin every now and then, but I find myself wanting more of what it only occasionally delivers.


Track Listing:

  1. Supermarket Radio
  2. Sutro Tower
  3. Schoolgirls
  4. Creek Lullaby
  5. Lenny
  6. Kentucky
  7. Psychobabble
  8. Kill the Martini Drinker
  9. C Song
  10. Genealogy
  11. Katastrophes

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