Agitated Atmosphere: Chris Zabriskie - Cylinders

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
01/24/2014
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Chris Zabriskie.The best music is that which is meant to be free. No barrier, no cost, and no strings. It has long been the principle of composer and experimentalist Chris Zabriskie, but only now in a world with a tumultuous media landscape can we truly appreciate the gift of art without a tax.

Zabriskie’s move toward the likes of Cage, Riley, and Glass grows with his latest free offering, Cylinders. Nine delicate pieces that build upon each other, frozen in time and space. This is not the first time this path has been traversed; 2012’s excellent Undercover Vampire Policeman an equally stunning, albeit more traditional compositional, flirted with his growing piano repertoire. But with Cylinders, Zabriskie enters the land of Sean McCann, Matthew Sullivan and recent contemporaries that have moved toward minimalism and neo-classicism rather than the rad, broad strokes of 60s and 70s futurism.

But Cylinders is not beholden to any place or time. In a time when breaking new musical ground is an obstacle all its own, Zabriskie manages to poke his head through the formidable ceiling. Though its inspiration is cherry picked from the many names dropped upon this page, there’s still a uniqueness to the glassy melodies of Cylinders. It expands like modern drone but isn’t concerned with elongated breaths; it gives from for silence but doesn’t not seek it as musical companion; it is Baroque but not at the cost of current listening habits. There’s always a bit of borrowing in music to achieve progress; where many outright copy, Zabriskie avoids it where he can and adapts where he must.

The only bad perpetuated by Cylinders is that it is truly free. Without money, art can’t be promoted. It’s why Zabriskie has continued to exist shrouded from his peers rather than recognized beside them. Maybe that’s his goal – to be separate rather than to be corrupted. Cylinders has no mark or pox by which it is scarred; free from the constraints of expectation. Free of money; free of sin; free with conscious.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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