Soft Zoo is the debut album by A Small Party Of Pressure (Justin Wiggan, Mark Vernon, Anders Gjerde, Hild Sofie Tafjord and Lois Laplace) out now on Birmingham’s First Fold Records in a limited edition of only 100 copies. They have been exchanging samples, sounds and partially completed compositions by mail and online over a period of four years defining and refining the unconscious thoughts that have resulted in the phonic map now called Soft Zoo. They still have never met in person.
Small Cruel Party at the Zoo
“An unsettling item of ambiguous electronic music is Soft Zoo (FIRST FOLD RECORDS FOLDCD011), a record credited to A Small Party Of Pressure, a cabal of mummers which includes the massed talents of Justin Wiggan, Mark Vernon, Anders Gjerde, Hild Sofie Tafjord and Lois Laplace. Some of these names I recognise and have even enjoyed their work in past years, but none have ever appeared in quite such strange and shrouded disguise as this. Faintly murmuring and non-melodic synth tones and electro-acoustic treatments float around in heavy syrup like menacing jellyfish in this fairground of the paranormal, where all the sideshow barkers whisper in unknown tongues, and I don’t even remember buying my entry ticket. As to disguises, even the CD cover gets in on the act, attempting to mislead and distract with confusing or inaccurate information; the spine simply states “ARTIST NAME / PROJECT TITLE” in a generic fashion, the cover stickers give glimpses of visual information that is puzzling, there are errant numbers, and what does the date stamp “APPROVED 27 NOV 2010″ mean? To cap it all, they insert a piece of paper which when unfolded turns out to be the form for a Rorschach test, clearly implying that as listeners we will find within this music reflections and apes of whatever secrets lurk in our murky brain-pans. Enter this labyrinth by all means, but be sure to bring Ariadne’s golden thread before ye confront your inner Minotaur. The centre-piece ‘Skin’ is an agitated noisy growler which suggests a lot about the seething Id that lurks at the centre of this psychological maze, but the remainder of the record tends to reside in the area of Nurse With Wound or The Hafler Trio, and very expertly done too. “From the ashes of industry we rise,” is the motto of the record company that released this head-scratcher.”
(Ed Pinsent, Sound Projector, 27th December 2011)
“… Soft Zoo consists of 14 tracks that combine live instrumentation and field recordings to produce something resembling musique concrete or a soundtrack to a non-existent film. Pianos, xylophones, electronics, guitars, horns, bells and all manner of bric-a-brac mingle with the sounds of scratching, scraping, rustling, hair cutting, clock winding, growling and the air being let out of tires resulting in an aural mosaic that is provocative, moderately unsettling and, thankfully, never boring. There might be an intended narrative here but for maximum effect it would be best to rely on the trippy film being projected on the inside of your eyelids. ASPOP are not the first outfit to dabble in musical brain-movies and listening to Soft Zoo I’m occasionally reminded of long forgotten Godspeed side project Set Fire to Flames. A more apt comparison might be the constructivist collages of Joseph Cornell for each piece on Soft Zoo is like a box filled with ornaments, curiosities, memories and seemingly irrational juxtapositions from which emanate some enchanting spells”.
(Karim Vickery, Halcyon)