There seems to be a prevalent theme in the music industry these days: some albums just aren't as easily accessible upon first listen as others. History has also shown this to be true, but today's artists are really pushing the envelope in developing new sounds. Sometimes an album requires multiple listens before it can truly begin to sink in to your head. This may be due to the fact that listeners have become slightly more impatient with the music industry in this "age of information." Albums are so readily available now via the Internet and listening stations, that if a record doesn't re-invent music, it's tossed aside and regarded as passé. Admittedly, that was my first impression upon listening to Zongamin. For some strange reason, though, I really wanted to like this album. I wasn't going to let my first impression be the determining factor of my opinion. It may also have something to do with the fact that I purchased the album for the artwork. Regardless of my lame excuses, I'm quite pleased with the time I've devoted to this album.
Susumu Mukais, the man behind the Zongamin mask, is the creator of some of today's most bizarre and imaginative electro-punk sounds. Come to think of it, he may be the only one currently creating this style of music. With a list of influences a mile long, it's very intriguing to see how these influences have played out on the release of Zongamin. It's already been discussed a hundred times that the eighties movement is making its comeback. Zongamin could easily fit into this group of artists, but none of the others I've heard to date sound quite as original. Where other bands depict a more current flavor of the eighties, Mukais does an extremely good job of masking the link between the "then and now." You would actually think that this album was released in 1981, but had just been re-issued due to an overwhelming consumer demand. Nearly every song is laden with complex bass lines that set the backdrop for swirling guitar and keyboard effects.
"Make Love Not War" introduces the album with what can only be described as the most beautifully fuzzed-out bass I've ever heard. It's apparent that Mukais' love for the bass, in general, is an important piece of this album's puzzle. The third track, "Spiral," heavily incorporates abusive post-punk bass and guitar riffs while simultaneously giving the illusion that this could be played at a disco. Songs like "J. Shiver's Theme" and "New Song to an Old Story" approach things from a different point of view. While most of the album's songs punch you in the face with a dominating force, these two songs are less complicated. "New Song to an Old Story" is quite melodic and surprisingly calming. "Tunnel Music," however, is the true essence of Zongamin's sound. In the end, though, they're all somewhat quirky with gratifying nuances.
Mukais is well on his way to making a name for himself as a music collage artist. Although Zongamin is not the most accessible album I've heard, it really does have a lot going for it. The important lesson here is that the album gets better with each listen and the individual songs get better as you work through the track listing. Your patience is one of the things that will get you through this album. While simplicity can sometimes be the easiest antidote to making an album, it can sometimes be just as fulfilling to go in the opposite direction. In this case, Mukais has shown that he is in fully confident with his inner child and musical talent.