Old Man Gloom
Old Man Gloom, which is a conglomeration of various Hydrahead oriented talents (in particular, Aaron Turner from Isis and Caleb Scofield from Cave In), was conceived as a strange montage of ambience, Neurosis-world dementia and complete sound-art in a musical frame. Dressed in a certain amount of mystique and high desert mysticism, Old Man Gloom is an amazing side project that creates their own sound, although still retaining appeal for fans of Isis or earlier Cave In. The outfit's two previous releases were chock full of songs, some of which were brief soundscapes, but Seminar III: Zozobra is only one track, lasting just over twenty-seven minutes.
The term "Zozobra" has its roots in New Mexico's rich culture. The rough Spanish translation means "the gloomy one" and it probably doesn't take a degree in linguistics to see the connection to Old Man Gloom's name. The CD's liner notes and artwork reflect the spirit of the southwest, providing some photos of Utah and Arizona's Monument Valley area, a place steeped in deep tradition for the native folks of the area. While Old Man Gloom's music may not exactly be analogous to the indigenous music of the area, it still expouses a certain mood and feeling that will capture the ears of any discerning listener.
Zozobra is an album that never quite stands still. It travels in arcs, building in intensity as the CD wears on. The transition from soft and quiet to the dense matter in the middle is aptly performed, not being forced or unnatural. Samples, static and noises are inserted throughout, giving the listener the eerie feeling you're eavesdropping on voices in the void. Despite the harsh nature of the music, there is a hidden beauty behind it all, one that becomes much more apparent with successive listens. Fans of Isis are probably quite familiar with Aaron Turner's ability to turn a crushing sound into gorgeous art and Old Man Gloom shines because of that.
From conception of the album to conclusion, the listener may never be aware of the passing of time until the very end of the CD. Seminar III: Zozobra is simply fascinating and surreal, a very high mark for all those involved in its creation.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 02/2003