Happenin': Zaireeka must be experienced

MUSIC REVIEW- Happenin': Zaireeka must be experienced


Zaireeka happening
by Flaming Lips on CD
at Brown College
Friday, September 19

"Happenings" just don't seem to happen much anymore.

Getting a fair number of people together for an event which is more than just the medium– as in more than just the movie being watched, or the rock show being seen– is an increasingly rare occurrence since the happening heyday of the '60s.

Leave it to those clever kids in UVA's Brown College to bring a troubled idiom back to life, if only for an evening.

Brown College, as you may or may not know, is a strange and wonderful residence at UVA whose application process whittles down applicants to the more eclectic of the crop, making for a culture of brainiacs and wacky folk in general– and I mean that in the best possible way.

It was through one of these interesting characters I learned that some of the Brown residents were planning a Zaireeka listening party last Friday night, September 19, a happening if I ever heard one.

But possibly some explanation is in order. Zaireeka is the quadruple CD set released by the stranger-than-thou indie-pop group Flaming Lips way back in 1997, but here's the catch– all four albums are designed to be played simultaneously, on four different stereos, each one providing a different part of the sonic spectrum.

As four stereos, and at least two sets of arms to press the play button on them all (and properly sync them all up), is not something everyone can boast, not that many individuals have been able to hear the complete work.

Seated in one of the darkened lounges in the bowels of Brown College, after the arduous task of getting four hands to press the play button on four stereos, we listened as the first track, "Okay I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand" filled the densely packed room with what could best be described as acid choir rock.

At only a little longer than two minutes, "Okay..." gets to the heart of what the multi-directional Zaireeka listening experience is about: interesting drums, echo-saturated lead vocals, looping bass lines, and harmonious multi-tracked backing voices, sounding like what one imagines a message from God (whether you're a believer or not) will be like.

Track 2, "Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (You're Invisible Now)," is definitely an album highlight-­ jazz influenced drums combine with orchestral sounds, and Coyne's disembodied voice weaves in and out of the mix. Multiple movements are separated not just by instrumentation, but also by the lucidity of lyrical content (never a Flaming Lips specialty).

Track 5, "The Train Runs Over the Camel But Is Derailed by the Gnat" is all shimmering guitar codas, huge drums, and singer Wayne Coyne's oblivious-to-the-beat vocal delivery. Meandering at a little over six minutes, this is probably the album's weakest track, but it's still an experience to listen to.

Describing the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka is like trying to explain love; I can only show you the way, and give you a hint as to the wonders that await you. You've gotta experience it for yourself.