ZÖJ performance review: A Multi-layered Improvisation at Melbourne Recital Centre
Melbourne, 12 July 2021 – It is a rare occasion for a Kamancheh and Drums to cross paths and even more rare to happen in Australia. Gelareh Pour and Brian O’Dwyer are ZÖJ (meaning couple) and as a couple facing each other during improvisation, it is a remarkable experience for audience not only to enjoy their music but also witness their unique exchange of glances and smiles. I personally believe the act of two instruments improvising has many similarities to love making.
Gelareh is creating an experimental ambient atmosphere using effect pedals matured with her rich instrument and singing techniques. Incorporating Persian microtones in very selected moments; balanced enough to induce the mystery but also not to make the sound too complex for western ears. Brian used brush and mallets on drums and played mostly free-style rhythms accompanying Gelareh. I would say the drums were played thoughtful enough not to steal the attention from melody but also entered at right places especially where crescendo cymbals came in occasionally.
I found the music atmosphere very influential and haunting. Specially during the song which had the lyrics about Iranian protests. You would definitely feel your soul scratched as the bow hit the instrument. Specially Gelareh used vocal loop effects to record very high-pitched scream-like sounds to enrich the background sounds even more. It was remarkable that harmonies were still well maintained in the complex combination that those “scream” voice loops created.
Performance-wise, ZÖJ are truly relaxed and intimate. With their instruments, between each other and audience. I would call this relaxation a witness they have harmonised their personal performance experience with audience’s. Their next gig will be at Lighthouse Arts Collective on 20 Aug 2021.
ZÖJ’s music reminds me of Björk but less avant-garde and less dark but with similar unexpected twists specially the extreme tinges of emotional “stings”. Well done ZÖJ!
By: Salim Ghazi Saeedi