Zeena Parkins

Zeena Parkins

No Way Back


After the first two times I listened to this rather difficult record, I was raising my fists to the heavens in frustration and screaming dark curses against Thurston Moore, Marc Ribot, Fred Frith and the rest of their ilk. I couldn’t believe that they had peer-pressured Zeena Parkins into donning an electric axe. Then I looked at the liner notes, and noticed that Ms. Parkins created every atonal second of this record with only an electric harp and a sampler. Since that initial shock, I have been studying every note on No Way Back , trying to figure out how she is conjuring up these notes, these shrieks, these sounds. No luck.

Had I remembered my New York Knitting Factory history lessons, I would have remembered that this is the same Zeena Parkins who has been plying the electric harp in outfits such as Skeleton Crew, No Safety, and Cobra. This is THE Zeena Parkins who adeptly goes toe-to-toe with John Zorn, Elliot Sharp, Chris Cutler, the sadly-missed Tom Cora, and lectures at prestigious arts universities. No hyperbole required, history speaks for itself.

How does No Way Back survive in a vacuum? If all you wanna do is rock, perhaps you should move on. If you wish to be simultaneously engaged and irritated, by all means drop that Non record and step this way. The standout track for me is the helter-skelter ambiance of “Dreaming Lips.” It almost sounds a bit elegant or even courtly before a vicious cloud of white noise swallows the whole track. “Slant Left” is wonderful for its-post industrial found noise and reprise of the harmony pattern of track one’s “Vita Futuristica.” And when all else fails, I like to imagine the low end drone and scream of “Venus Smiles” blowing out someone’s speakers. No Way Back is not a radical departure from the rest of Ms. Parkins’ canon, but it is a worthy release. There should always be a place in our hearts for records that walk the anorexic thin line between aesthetic genius and a bloody racket.

Atavistic, P.O. Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657; http://www.atavistic.com

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