AMN Reviews: Comfort Zone – Inverted Pendulum

Inverted Pendulum, the new download from Comfort Zone (a duo of Oz on Chapman Stick and Breeze Smith on drumkit, percussion and electronics), is an album-length excursion into the sonic possibilities of acoustic and electronically processed timbres. Overall, the release features the sometimes surrealistic sonic images of the Chapman Stick layered atop a foundation provided by Smith’s often urgent, rock-based pulse drumming. The duo, who met in a Los Angeles improvised music workshop, frequently work off of a programmatic theme of some sort, as reflected in the titles. The results are sound paintings of imagined events.

“Sleeping in” unfolds slowly into a chord progression that cycles through a series of variations, while “Lucid Dream” features atmospheric, reverb-treated Stick in suspended time. Cymbals add color as the drumkit provides pulses ranging from drifting to driving, underneath an ever-shifting cloud of chords. In “Evening on the Bridge of Sighs” ambient long tones drone in a slightly ominous, muted manner appropriate for the Venetian landmark the track’s title invokes. Similarly, “Audrey in Wanderland” layers energetic drumming under distorted diminished chords, evoking the disorientation of being lost in an unknown geography. The release culminates with “The Harbor,” an epic track of 20+ minutes with an emphasis on electronically-produced timbres shading sounds deployed as semi-independent events that gradually cohere into a dynamic buildup, which recedes in due time.