Zoon Van Snook is the solo electronic project of one Alex Snook, who is from Bristol in the UK. (Falling From) The Nutty Tree is his debut album. It was released way back in December of 2010, but a promo of it was only sent to EvilSponge in the middle of 2011. I wonder why there was a delay between release and promoting the record?
It is pretty cool stuff. Snook makes electronica that doesn't sound like it was produced on a laptop. There are many layers of sounds, but a lot of the samples he uses are not computer-damaged. I honestly thought that this was an old-school turntablist record, you know, like DJ Shadow, or that cool early hip-hop. (Falling From) The Nutty Tree has that kind of collagist feel to it.
The record starts with Shall He? Shanty, which is jaunty rhythms and deeply buried samples of people with English accents talking. It feels happy, just a little beat meandering along under a tinkling sound like a plucked guitar.
The second track is Cuckoo, which is apparently the single from this record. (You can download it free from SoundCloud.) This is driven by a thudding beat and a wavering keyboard melody. This is more of an electronica song than a lot of the stuff on this record, as it comes across as something designed for clubs. To be honest, it is not my favorite here, but hey, it's the freebie.
Lomograph is driven by a nice looped drum riff and a deep bass groove. This reminds me of DJ Shadow, only with what sounds like a xylophone layered over it. It moves at a nice loping pace. The Cross I'd Bear moves into Four Tet territory, starting off with some sort of sample like an old radio before a skipping beat comes in. Snook adds some wordless vocals and a happy tinkling melody. Very fun.
Snook shows off his pianist chops on The Two Knives (Cuckoo's Reprise), which is mostly just him tinkling the ivories, with some faint glitchy noises in noises in the background and at the end. It is a pretty song.
Half Term (8:08) is actually only 6 minutes and 10 seconds long. It features a layer of static popping, a few layers of whooshing synths, and some stuttering frantic beats. In the middle there is a distorted vocal sample. Pretty cool.
Sculptress is built out of guitar riffs, layered and clipped. It almost sounds like a folk song. I wonder if he played the guitar here. The weirdly named Ee'm Yorn meanders minimally for two minutes with half-heard vocal samples and odd clattering noises, before a nice, fast drum riff comes in, paired with some more of the excellent xylophone.
Pearl St Mess is kind of the centerpiece of this record. It seems to take all of what Snook is doing, and do it best. This song reminds me of Acid Jazz, if you remember that genre from the mid 1990s. It has a funky beat and a sauntering keyboard melody, with horn samples layered over it. This is really good stuff, and far more indicative of the album than the single Cuckoo.
Plainsong is kind of like Sculptress in that it is based on loops of plucked string samples. Are these supposed to be harp samples? Snook feeds these through the laptop, IDMing them up a bit, so that they stutter and pop. In the middle, there is an interlude with an aah-ing chorus and a good, thudding drum loop. This song is another fine example of Snook's collagist tendencies.
And finally the record ends with Le Fin, a fun little tune with tinkling xylophone. I love what he does with this instrument. Does he play it, then feed the recordings into the laptop? The xylophone part is faintly popping in that IDM way. A neat end to the record.
I really like what Snook is doing on this album. This is not dance electronica, but rather an interesting exercise in layering different sounds.