Review Summary: There won't be a better album this year, next year, or maybe even the year after that.
Zelienople’s The World Is A House On Fire is truly a special album. It’s one that has an alluring, unique vibe that keeps me coming back over and over again, without it ever getting old. Essentially, Zelienople have honed their sound so well since they originally formed in 1998. They’ve released many full length albums and EPs, all of them having a similar Zelienople feel, but at the same time being fresh and different. This newest album is the pinnacle of their sound so far.
Zelienople are a trio making an eclectic style of drone based music utilizing many different instruments and influences. Matt Christensen’s whispery, dreamlike vocals sound better than they ever have before, and his lyrics, while always being quality in the past, really shine here. Christensen is also responsible for the hypnotic, groovy bass present throughout the album. Drummer Mike Weis is again using unusual percussion styles, showing his love for drone and tribal music. However, one of the real masters of atmosphere here is keyboardist Brian Harding, with his beautifully textured passages, especially present next to the ringing clean electric guitar like on songs such as “The Southern.”
The World Is A House On Fire is Zelienople’s most cohesive album overall. Every song ends perfectly to set up the next one, and once the first song is started, it’s near impossible to stop listening. Improvisation is a key part of Zelienople’s sound, and that has certainly not changed here. However, compared to some of their earlier outputs it’s been toned down in favor of a more structured approach to songwriting. Elements of noise manage to sneak their way in subtly, but never to a point where it would give the album an atonal sound.
There are few albums like The World Is A House On Fire, just like there are few bands like Zelienople. It takes something special to craft such intricate, subtle recordings for over a decade and continue to succeed to not only make worthwhile music, but music that constantly is evolving and improving in many ways. If you’re a human being that’s a fan of any music at all, this one comes highly recommended.