Zelienople bandleader Matt Christensen makes deconstructed slowcore that engrosses with its subtlety | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Zelienople bandleader Matt Christensen makes deconstructed slowcore that engrosses with its subtlety 

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click to enlarge The cover of Matt Christensen’s new album A Swollen Sun.

The cover of Matt Christensen’s new album A Swollen Sun.

For more than two decades, singer and guitarist Matt Christensen has led Zelienople, a Chicago trio that explores the outer limits of slowcore by dismantling its melodies and song structures. Christensen focuses on similar territory in his solo work—at least, that’s the impression I get from what I’ve heard so far. His Bandcamp page features more than 120 releases he’s made since 2011, though one is a retrospective-slash-primer compilation he put together as part of a 2018 interview for Glassworks Coffee’s website (the roaster’s founder, Ben Crowell, worked for Touch and Go before launching his coffee business). But Christensen’s work doesn’t require you to develop an encyclopedic grasp of this expansive catalog in order to understand what’s moving about it. Though the songs on September’s A Swollen Sun sound like they’re always almost falling apart, his sparse, spacious guitar playing and murmured vocals, awash in gentle reverb, reliably come through to keep the music moving. Christensen sometimes flirts with rootsy guitar tones that make parts of the album sound like disintegrating country ballads, but mostly the auras he summons feel mystical, monklike, and deliberately open to interpretation.   v

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