EP Review :: Zoon :: Sterling Murmuration

cover of EP Sterling Murmuration

by Myles Tiessen

“…this body of work is supposed to display the danger in isolating. While in this state, we set ourselves up to be in harm’s way by outside forces, but breaking out and embracing humility and community, you can finally transcend into a healthy trajectory.”

So writes Zoon’s Daniel Monkman in the press release for their surprise EP Sterling Murmuration

The Toronto-based shoegazer’s journey exploring the fringes of rock music is boundless in creativity. It often taps into a particular emotional resonance that only exists in the sonic cosmology of their discography. 

As a companion piece to Big Pharma—an EP released earlier this year on National Indigenous Peoples Day—Sterling Murmuration is a collection of songs, sounds, and poetry originally written and recorded by Monkman over a decade ago while they lived in Winnipeg. These four new tracks reflect on the passage of time, decay, retribution, and the death of friends. The listener is lifted into a profoundly unique musical experience as the temporal fuzz of guitars and lush wash of reverb-soaked vocals emit through the airwaves.

Opener “Play Ground” begins with inorganic buzz, unacquainted and directionless in its intentions. It hangs there for a moment, cementing itself as the album’s cornerstone, waiting until the rest of the song builds around it. Precious acoustic guitars swing among themselves until an all-encompassing wave of sound moves you into the glimmering, hallucinogenic light of emblematic shoegaze. “Play Ground” is a song where Monkman lays out the memories of a deceased close friend. The straightforward production in the vein of My Bloody Valentine harkens back to the younger and vulnerable years of summer sunsets, tag on the play structure, and bike rides to 7-Eleven. “Come along to the playground/Don’t play like they used to,” sings Monkman. Rather than sounding forlorn as one might expect, Monkman seems stronger and more resilient on “Play Ground.” Maybe it’s the knowledge of their collaborative approach to these songs, but Zoon appears to have found that “healthy trajectory” out of tragedy.

Tracks “In the Woods” and “Move” are undoubtedly impactful and brilliant scene-setters. The former is a short instrumental, the latter being a luscious cloud of oscillating acoustic guitar syncopation and harsh feedback pulsating through a buzzy monitor. As intended, these two songs fit together like twins synced up on a swing set. Sharing similar structures of organic guitars layered with haunting soundscapes, they show how Monkman delicately crafts their songs. Like a bricklayer, Monkman stacks blocks of illimitable sounds until the songs are steady and unmovable.

Sterling Murmuration closes off with the riff-intensive “Giizhig.” The pounding drums blast through the mix, and the guitar riff moving through molasses seeps through your skull. We are treated to a similar wall of energy that we get throughout Bleached Wavves but in a stripped-down, more introductory approach. It’s easy to see the connective tissue between these previously unreleased recordings and Bleached Wavves

In the end, the collection of songs found on Sterling Murmuration feels like conclusions to thoughts and dreams of yesteryear.

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