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Zoon Van Snook: “Lomograph”
As Zoon Van Snook, UK-based oddball producer Alec Snook has released his debut album, (Falling From) The Nutty Tree. It’s a chameleonic kind of record; Snook uses everything from folk, jazz, hip hop, and IDM to create his style of cut-and-paste electronica.
Though the album has its scattered and weird moments, Snook’s knack for melody and rhythms make for an approach that is more contemplative than erratic. With plucked and chimed melodies over heavy, glitched-out beats, the record has a warm, well-textured sound.
Aside from Snook’s support of English indie bands I Am Kloot and Skunk Anasie, listeners received their first taste of his aesthetics with Snook’s 2008 four-track EP, Interviews and Interludes. The song “Bibliophone” from that record is a stuttering display of found sounds, household objects as percussion, reverse sampling, and temporal masking that makes for an experimental, glitchy IDM odyssey.
But for (Falling From) The Nutty Tree, Snook has scaled back the weirdness by withholding arrangements that stumble all over themselves. Instead, he comes off more refined and a lot smoother, and he still finds fun sounds to use as driving percussion.
Much like The Books or early Four Tet, Snook uses familiar sounds to make electronic masterpieces: lightly strummed acoustic guitars, chopped-up ukulele licks, jazz-inflected piano riffs, drawn-out accordion chords, and cut-and-mixed vocal samples. Album opener “Shall He? Shanty” is a subtle and simple arrangement of stringed instruments and wind chimes, showcasing Snook’s ability to make naturally paired sounds just discordant enough to make tracks exciting and engaging.
There is something enticing about lead-off single “Cuckoo,” which, unlike the rest of the album, is an electrifying dance track with heavy kicks and dirty synth pulsations. Snook serves “Cuckoo” two ways on the record, demonstrating his knowledge and respect for melody by reprising the tune’s basic chord structure in “The Two Knives (Cuckoo’s Reprise),” giving listeners a spare piano version of the same song.
Tracks like “Sculptress” transform Snook into an indie-folk guitarist; the first half is a collage of catchy, simple arpeggios programmed and arranged to striking effect. By the track’s end, everything swells into a beautiful blend of ambient sounds and sparsely layered electronic tings.
The aural arc on “Sculptress” seems to be the mantra for the whole album. In terms of mood, the album is a gentle mix of experimental and accessible, with hypnotizing picked chords at the center. While these familiar sounds — tracks like “The Cross I’d Bear” and “Ee’m Yorn,” — draw enough attention, it’s the kooky synthesizer sounds and large array of weird percussive embellishments that make the tracks idiosyncratic to Zoon Van Snook.