It really surprises me some of the far flung and obscure bands that find their way to us. This CD came unannounced all the way from Japan with a very polite message asking for review consideration along with biography and lyrics in both Japanese and English; welcome to the strange world of Zothique. Taking their name from a fictional continent in the writings of Clarke Ashton Smith (it would appear),, nothing about the band should be taken for granted and that certainly goes for the psychedelic sludge genre that they have been proffered with, there is much more to them than anything quite so simple.
The album contains three sprawling tracks each over the ten minute mark and with a wealth of ideas about them. First is the title track and Linxia is a prefecture of China as shown on the album artwork in stark red colour giving the impression that it is a dusty place kind of untouched by time. Sounds of traffic beeping away give way to a lumbering Sabbathian groove, so far so normal but it is the electronic chaos that unfurls around it with dissonant sonic sounds that make it stand out as being anything but. Deranged spoken vocals from singer Shusuke growl and rasp making it sound all the more alien as it plods and squalls away building up into ferocious biting lunacy. As part of the lyrics translate “the voice echoes in a lost city.” Electronics contortionist Darklaw’s noise generated effects really do make this an obtuse listen, away from the normal heady bass and now manic drumming patterns as it takes off going like the proverbial clappers with some ethnic sounding flourishes tempering the surge in a heady fashion that has pure chaos at its heart.
‘Hypnotic Kaleidoscope’ is far less linear and takes a calming route of simple acoustic guitar over ghostly voices for the first part. It’s a lazy sound that chills you out after the last segment This moves into a maudlin and incredibly sorrowful sounding part with female vocals gently accompanying it. It was as though I recognised this at once and it sent a shiver down my spine as the ghostly melody tinged things with sadness. Whether it is done as a purely accidental coincidence or not is unknown but it is remarkably similar to Crass track ‘Sentiment White Feather’ from Christ The Album,’ in both mood and melody, well it is until it screams into discordant shrieks and indignant yells with huge pummelling drums, massive riffing and obliterating sonic discourse. After taking us from peace to war in the one track you have no idea what the last number ‘Amoy’ has in store. The wizard behind the keyboards is messing with heads again as the slow groove muscles its way in. The lyrics mention mermaid corpses and I wonder if it has any reference to one such creature found in a manhole. The vocals are shouty and work well within the track which takes in aspects of heady doom, sludge and psychedelia amidst its burgeoning hallucinatory flow. You could mention other bands such as Sigh and Church Of Misery as a way of trying to suggest who this may appeal to, even Necrophagia when the vocals are at full gurgling flow but Zothique really are quite a unique and bewildering entity in their own right.
I have certainly enjoyed The Shadow Of Linxia which is apparently the second album by Zothique following on quickly from 2013 ‘Alkaloid Superstar.’ I doubt however that I have quite “got it” all but for me attempting to decipher it made this all the more interesting and I’m pleased the band took the trouble to find us and send it our way. Apparently they supported Dragged Into Sunlight when the UK act played in Japan, it would be cool if that is a favour that could be returned.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)