Arvo Zylo – Upheaval

No Part of It, the Chicago label run by the eloquent and prolific Arvo Zylo, released a new batch of CDRs at the end of October 2018. This one’s by the man himself. 

A lot of this makes sense. Copyright law and intellectual property rights are two sides of the same maddening coin, a bottomless hellhole that you will never, ever find your way out of if you somehow get caught up in it. Arvo Zylo almost got caught in it – almost. Back in 2005, he had a good idea, a great one maybe, to create a piece of drone music built on samples of pop divas holding sustained notes, stretched and manipulated till they no longer resembled the source material. He was onto something, a technique whose legality even today is still as murky as it was then.

And he couldn’t get anybody to get on board with it. He submitted his initial piece to appear on a compilation, but the curator wouldn’t have it, citing “fear of copyright retribution.” Disappointed but determined, driven but cranky (probably), Arvo Zylo did the most Arvo Zylo thing imaginable:

He became obsessed with Upheaval.

I guess that’s what you call it when you run the thing through exactly one hundred iterations, each one completely different than the last, with the final version padding itself out to four hours. This Upheaval, the one I’m talking about, contains test cases 93 to 99 – earlier versions have been released elsewhere. And none of them sound like anybody singing anything. Not that Arvo’s worried about that – he’s got some pretty good lawyers on retainer, and I think he could probably just release this thing into the wild without mentioning the singing and be done with it. Nobody’d know the difference.

Nobody but Arvo Zylo that is.

In the end, it’s more fun knowing the backstory. You can have that in the back of your mind as you dig through Upheaval, an uncompromising tour through the inner workings of a studio scientist, a glimpse into the diaries of a mad sampler. Completely at odds with anything resembling pop music, Upheaval instead proceeds like a powerful magnetic coil interacting with everything it comes in contact with. Sometimes the repetition is brutal – like it is on opener “Upheaval 93” – and sometimes it resolves with sly grace – like it does on opener “Upheaval 93.” For the most part, “Upheavals” begin intense and become intenser, gradually adding on ludicrous amounts of static and distortion until it blows the output through the red and into, say, the plaid.

This is what Arvo Zylo does. He wrestles a concept, a project, a recording, an obsession until he bests it, not compromising on the outcome, not content to leave anything be. We’re all probably better off because of people like Arvo. Except that label that wouldn’t put the initial iteration of “Upheaval” on that comp. That person just totally missed out.

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