(Statement of purpose: “Weird and Wild” is a new blog series at MFT that will explore albums by the experimental and strange, often reclusive and/or prolific underground artists with music in the MFT archives. The focus will be on the music itself, and we will examine one album at a time - so you may see some of the same artists in this category on several different occasions. Mainly, we want to help draw attention to the weirdest and wildest stuff out there that often doesn’t get the same level of attention as the more-mainstream or conventional musical genres. It may be abrasive, bizarre, or even “hard to listen to” for some people; but we want to make it easy to find for the people who seek out and enjoy this kind of music.)
Chicago Bulls Hat is the latest alias of Zachary Eve, who I’m pretty sure also has music at MFT as Closet Mouth and DeAndre Film Student. Like his friend and collaborator, Dr. Ray, Chicago Bulls Hat records and releases music at an overwhelming pace, posting new albums in the MFT archives only days apart sometimes. Step By Step On A Weeping Floor is one of Eve’s latest albums as Chicago Bulls Hat, and it’s as good a place as any to start exploring his experimental, digitally-manipulated looping soundscapes.
The album begins with “Get Out of My Life Woman,” a fractured and cut-up wasteland of jagged vocal samples and skittering percussive sounds. It’s disorienting and hazy, with an effect not unlike that of Oneohtrix Point Never, although every song in this collection covers different sonic terrain. “Severed Eagle Claw” has a gritty, floating ambient texture, offset by a beat made from lashing, whipping sounds and odd clicks. Here, as elsewhere in the music of CBH, minimalism is key. Eve can build stunning worlds of sound from a miniscule clip of some other recording, looped and fucked-with until the sample takes on a new life of its own.
Chicago Bulls Hat revels in the joy of creating unique compositions from obscure sources, pushing his taste as a music fan to the forefront of his sounds as an experimenter without being obvious about where the sounds came from. “The Isolated and Unhealthy” from Step By Step is another great example of what he does well. Built from a looped jazzy bassline and more oddly-timed drum sounds, the song creates a hypnotic effect that underlies layers of subtle weird effects and textures. It sounds something like an early Terry Riley experiment. “Miserable Child Sketches Naked Self Portrait” launches with an almost catchy hook, before tripping into a wonderfully nonsensical hell of jagged sound clips and circling, off-kilter rhythms. “Kill The Lord’s Name” has a menacing piano loop paired with a dark, airy atmosphere, and it’s as unsettling as it is vaguely compelling.
(Zach Eve AKA Chicago Bulls Hat)
Throughout its brief run-time (about 25 minutes), Step By Step On A Weeping Floor retains an undertone of darkness and intense emotion, which is fitting when one knows that Eve describes the album (and its title) as a response to living with an abusive family member. The two songs that close out the album, “Vampyroteuthis Infernalis” and “Lambsquarters,” respectively, have moments that could almost be described as “pretty,” but they always drift into the gritty netherworld of ambient music, like Brian Eno on a bad acid trip. However, the effect is often stunning, and the songs reveal their many subtleties on repeated listens.
This type of minimalist, abstract music frequently comments on man’s relationship to machine, and Chicago Bulls Hat seems to be no exception. The entire album, like many of his other collections, leaves the listener groping for meaning, yearning for coherent communication with the human being making these noises. But what sets Chicago Bulls Hat apart in my mind is his ability to express a range of uncomfortable emotions without saying a word or spelling out his purpose for the listener. The sound of centuries of pre-recorded music paired with live improvisations, tangled and warped into a new context, can still evoke our agonies and ecstasies, as machine-like as we may be. And as most of his recordings are capable of proving, Chicago Bulls Hat is a skilled manipulator and a creative conceptual artist worth listening to and attempting to understand through the common language of sound.