Two Men, Their Toys, and the Future
Warren Jones and Yuri Zbitnoff are Enuma Elish. They are not yet famous but they will be.
Enuma Elish is a jazz group, a rock group, a post-rock group, an electronic group, a funk band, and an avant-garde world music group. They sometimes do this all in the same song, which is why some of their songs are 10 minutes long.
This album was recorded in 2002, around the same time as their first album, which I haven’t heard. I do not know why they haven’t released anything more recent yet, but it doesn’t matter, as Leviathan sounds like it was recorded about five years in the future anyway.
These tracks are supposedly all “live”, which means soloing over lots of loops and samples but no overdubbing. I have no idea how they can do this, but I thought it was cool in junior high when I thought it up as a concert staple for my own band, Supernova, which never actually existed, so it’s hella cool now.
So, basically, Enuma Elish is the future.
Brief descriptions of the songs will not really do them justice, but here are a couple.
“Demon Mask” is in a 6/8 tempo, mostly, riding Zbitnoff’s internationalist percussion loops (hand cymbals? cuica? trap set?) until Jones’ sax and keyboard lines come in. There is a real melody here, and it continues even as Jones reaches full-on burnout Coltrane heights on tenor at the four-minute mark. Then things get really crazy, as Zbitnoff starts piling on the drum’n'bass fills over the next five minutes.
“Imminent Doom” begins with some cavernous drums—I always start rapping “Rhymin’ and Stealin’” when this comes on—adds some spaceship juju jive and buzzsaw lines, and then goes all grindy and echoey and chaotic. Somewhere, a melody emerges, only to be pulled back into the tar pits. When the solos start, it sounds like someone screaming for help.
“The Arrival” sounds like the opening track from the difficult second album by the Star Wars Cantina Band.
One more: “Leviathan” sounds like the dub version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
If this superhero team has a weakness, it might be that they don’t use vocals, which means that ADD people can’t get in on the fun, or that there is a general template here (rhythm, solos, freak-out solos, loop pile-ons, ending) that might get too familiar after a few albums. They’ll have to fix that eventually.
Oh, and the pretention. They take their name from the Babylonian creation myth, which is a little overblown; their song titles allude to depths that their music doesn’t necessarily justify. They’ll either get deeper or start titling their songs “Long-Ass Drone” or “The One That Kicks Out the Jamz” or something.
But for now: nothing to fix. Love love love Enuma Elish.
// Notes from the Road
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