Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dragons Of Zynth

I did a brief stint as an intern at One Little Indian Records in New York, back in 2006. Whilst abusing the hell out of the CMJ passes that I had scored for my wife and I, we bumped into Jaleel Bunton of TVOTR outside Arlene's Grocery on the Lower East Side. My wife having been formerly acquainted with the drummer, introduced me. I inquired as to whether he knew of any unsigned talent worth checking out. He replied that TVOTR had taken a band under their wing not so long ago, and that I should contact them and go see them play. This band was none other than the Dragons Of Zynth. I went to see them play at a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Nothing came of my position at One Little Indian, except the seeds of a good friendship with the brothers (Aku and Akwetey Orracca-Tetteh) responsible for the birth of DOZ. I subsequently saw them play at least twelve times over the following eight months. It was my privilege to watch and hear them evolve and explode with an intensity indicative of musical minds that do not operate on the level of people like you and I. They have played with at least four different drummers since I have known them, and three different bass players; each player accompanied a potent shift in dynamics.

Over the two years since I moved to Los Angeles, I have spoken to them only a handful of times. They assured me that they would be hitting the West Coast soon, but time would pass by again. Then, one day as I sifted through an uninspired slew of new releases on the iTunes store, I stumbled across "Coronation Thieves" - the debut album by DOZ. I downloaded it immediately, but I wanted a physical copy too, so I headed over to the Virgin Megastore in Hollywood to pick one up. Several of the tracks on the album I had heard in some form or other during my association with the brothers, some of the tracks were new. I'm always excited to see a friend's work hit the shelves, and this was no exception. Dave Sitek (accomplished producer of bands such as TVOTR, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Celebration) worked with the boys on Coronation Thieves, and the result is strong. In my unprofessional, personal (and therefore biased) opinion, not enough risks were taken in the production of the album. I am a huge fan of all of the aforementioned artists which he produced, but in the case of DOZ, a lot of the potency and power of the music is hard to capture on tape; their music is rhythmically and harmonically complex, full of wildly shifting dynamics - only a live performance will really show you what they are about.
In March 2008, the band made a long-overdue appearance on the West Coast. I caught up with them at the Dublab studio above the Little Temple Bar on Santa Monica Blvd in Silverlake. Hobbling up the stairs on crutches thanks to a boisterous karaoke session that ended in me breaking my ankle one month prior, I was greeted by the brothers, and was reminded at once of what I had been missing here in LA. After several technical difficulties (accompanied by the smell of burning fuses), DOZ whisked through their set. Then they started over, citing unhappiness with the energy of the first run. I joined them for a meal in Echo Park, then followed them to the 6th Street Warehouse in Downtown LA. They played a fantastic set, following on the heels of a great performance by Rumspringa (another wonderfully imaginative act that I have the pleasure of knowing personally). The Dragons drove off into the night, on the war path with Saul Williams as the opening act on the Niggy Tardust's Star-Spangled Banner Tour. A couple of nights later, they returned in force to LA, playing a show at the Troubadour. They soaked our senses with psychedelic splendour, tearing into the consciousness of a fully-unprepared audience. My face fixed in a wide grin of appreciation, I relinquish control and let the powerful waves of this unique blend of fire and soul wash over me. The live show is alive and well... 

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