A lone saxophonist doesn’t seem like the type or artist one would normally find on Ellenwood-EP, but Nick Zoulek, to put it mildly, is different. The Wisconsin-based virtuoso teases sounds out of the various permutations of sax that are so different, interesting and haunting that the indie world seems now to be more interested in him than the classical, jazz or even experimental camps. He released his album Rushing Past Willow in late August and critics from all three genres have really taken notice, for good reason.
Zoulek’s style almost defies definition. Listening to arguably his strangest single off Rushing Past Willow, “Silhouette of a Storm-Bent Tree”, numerous times will leave the listener gobsmacked, as it’s truly unclear whether there are multiple instruments being played or if Zoulek really is bending sound in this way with his bass saxophone. The tones here are low and slow, but the remarkable part is the way Zoulek creates distortion and dissonance within one or two drawn out notes. At once the music sounds like a cello, a synthesized bass, a voice, a haunting guitar. What is likely the case is that track is mastered in a way to amplify and stretch out the distorted tones, but beyond that it’s extraordinary to hear what Zoulek is capable of doing with one instrument.
Zoulek tends to pair his singles with emotive and evocative videos featuring equally unconventional dancers, and it makes sense if his tracks are meant to be interpretive. This is probably the case with “Silhouette of a Storm-Bent Tree, as the dancer moves in a way which connotes the same feelings as the song. Add in the visual location and style of the video, and suddenly the track becomes a completely understandable piece despite its completely unconventional sound and lack of lyrics. Zoulek aims to make the audience understand his music through feeling.