An inner dialogue winds through Zekarias Thompson’s magnificent debut, Goodnight Shiva. Meditations on isolation and reconnection; the alignment of self-perception and outward realities become reveries where immersive listening reveals a river that runs beneath it all. Thompson’s hand guides this journey. He ruminates on blackness and what all that can mean as he uses these sonic expressions to find a wave of peace within his own body and a place with the cosmos.
Across Goodnight Shiva, Thompson shows he’s capable of just about anything. On opener, “shorts,” he plays guitar and sings, his voice distilled in the glassine tones reverberating against angled walls. Joined by drummer Jeffrey Lamoureux, bassist Dr. Tim Thompson, and Erik Anderson on samples and synths, it’s a disintegrating anthem. Lamenting the backward winding path, layers spread like prismatic shards creating a halo around Thompson’s guitar arrangements. When Lamoureux kicks in the beat, there’s nowhere to go but up. In the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Thompson whispers as he looks for a place to land.
When Thompson sings or speaks, there’s a fleeting directness that feels as though we’re hearing his hidden thoughts. Yet when gin hart speaks in a gravelly, processed voice on “Alight,” there’s a distance. The words, spread across an aural canvas of saxophone repetitions and grinding ambient gears, are sticky with an air of permanence. “Who’s life is this?” they demand as chaos echoes across the landscape. Their voice is a constant in this swirling sea.
Dueling polyrhythms wind around Thompson’s emotive saxophone howl on “Signs of Reasonable Decay” before electronics swell to the foreground and the beat picks up. There’s a feeling almost woven into the sounds, like being close to some form of actualization before losing the train of thought to our inner wilds. Birds churn out magic, but it’s those saxophone fragments that keep luring us back to that path. The physicality of Thompson’s playing and the emotional weight of it all means there has to be an answer somewhere in this jungle even if the path is never quite clear.
On closer, “Goodnight Shiva (If You Listen Closely)” a tranquilizing motion drifts through in the early moments. hart returns, clear in the calm waters waiting for the inevitable storm. Thompson sends daggers from his saxophone before his voice returns, “Don’t be afraid.” Layers dissolve into darkness and morph into an alternate reality where our inner stillness is a beacon. “I’m having trouble describing any of this,” hart returns. “What it is. If it is. It is what?” The bottom falls out and disappears within. I don’t know if there are answers here, but exploring every facet of the questions and listening to ourselves is a victory itself. Getting there will come in time. Goodnight Shiva is a stunning debut.