After a melodic, but subdued debut titled Pajama Avenue, Zelienople started down a path that incorporated much more drone and experimentation into their sound on their second album Sleeper Coach. On that release, the group still followed somewhat more traditional song structures, but introduced some heavy waves of feedback and other sounds into their dream-time songs, and have dived even further down the rabbit-hole since then. They've put out full-length releases on labels such as Time Lag and Digitalis (as well as limited efforts on Roots Strata), and members have put out side project releases under the names Good Stuff House and Western Automatic.
His/Hers is the newest release from the group, and it finds its home on the ever-expansive Type Records (who have released everything from the modern classical of Ryan Teague to the creepy ambience of Deaf Center and Xela). Clocking in somewhere between their most experimental work and their more song-oriented, the five-song, forty-five minute release veers back and forth between hushed cloudy passages of song and ambience and scorching, clattering meltdowns of sound. "Family Beast" opens the release and finds only an acoustic guitar reverberating in a large room with some withering bowed electric guitar. The track builds in uneasy ways, as fragile vocals creep into the mix with some quiet brushed sounds and dry guitar with a touch of buzz.
"Moss Man" pretty much picks up where the previous track left off, with some heavily reverbed electric guitar again echoing off into the distance. Like all tracks on the release, it builds slowly, but this time the group allows some release as drums, several layers of droning guitars, and some massive guitar freakouts eventually blowout for several minutes. The beginning of "Parts Are Lost" is the most straightforward section of the release, and for a moment it sounds like the group might be dipping into sort of an ethereal avant folk realm with warm vocals, hand percussion and lovely guitar. Like other songs, though, it shifts along the way, turning into another hazy piece of dark folk that drifts with more incomprehensible vocals and clouds of guitar.
The last two songs on the release flux back and forth as well, with "Forced March" pushing things into a blistering red-line zone with crushing feedback, clattering percussion and moaning vocals before quieting down again and leading into the creepy and more sparse closer of "Sweet Ali." Recording in a basement, often with homemade instruments, Zelienople make songs that you might expect given such a setup. It's dark, it's primal and somewhat cavernous sounding, and it tends to get you into a head space where time seems to pass a little more slowly. Among their best work to date, His/Hers will likely sound even better as the fall rolls around.