For just being one guy with (usually) a bass saxophone, Nick Zoulek has certainly garnered a lot of attention from unexpected music sources. The indie world took notice of him with his unconventional style when he released his full-length album, Rushing Past Willow, but there are actually a number of songs on this album that transition over into the electronic side of things as well. One thing’s for sure: this is not typical jazz sax.
Zoulek tends to pair his stark and experimental saxophone songs with equally stark videos featuring experimental dancers. His newest video for the song “Silhouette of a Storm-Bent Tree” is no exception. It’s also one of the tracks on Rushing Past Willow which has an electronic vibe to it, although it’s far from clear how the electronic bit is done. The tones on the sax for this track are low and slow, and Zoulek creates his own distortion with the way the instrument is played, but the electronic bit comes in mostly in post-production. The track is mastered so amplify and stretch out the distorted tones so much that the lower pitches sound like a bass synth. It’s an extraordinary way both to play an analog instrument and to highlight its less known features. This is why Zoulek’s work is so unexpected: the tones he creates, especially in “Silhouette of a Storm-Bent Tree” challenge what any music fan has ever known of understood about what a saxophone can do.
The video for “Silhouette of a Storm-Bent Tree” features dancer Nicole Spence, and once again it will defy audiences’ understanding of what dance is. The video is shot in fits and starts to single out a particular movement or body angle while Spence’s movements barely look like what most would class as dancing, especially since they take place on a bed. It almost looks like a really beautiful struggle to get out of bed in the morning. If there wasn’t already enough challenge to generally recognized aesthetics in the track itself, the video pushes that challenge even farther.
Zoulek has already released another video in his Rushing Past Willow series called “These Roots Grown Deep” where once again the electronic aspect is played up with amplified distortion and, in the video, an LED light show set up behind Zoulek. It will be interesting to see how this video series progresses and if Zoulek will take his already semi-electronic, experimental sax work to even more interesting places. Perhaps full EDM?