TO:63 – Z’EV “Headphone Musics # 1-6 b/w As Is As”

CD – 7 tracks

Jewel case with artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft and Tereza Stehlikova
In 1967 Z’EV took a tape music class at the UCLA night school. The leader of the course was Joseph Byrd who was the founder and theoretician of the first electronic rock band; the united states of america. So while it’s almost 40 years now that he has been involved in the production of electro-acoustic music, “Headphone Musics” marks the first release of a product exclusively featuring this form of music. All of the source material is drawn from the collection of cassette tapes Z’EV has amassed over the last 30 years – sounds and soundscapes he has either recorded himself or witnessed, or tapes that have been given to him by various peoples on his travels or been received by him through the mail from fans etc. Technically he remains a bit orthodox in that basically he still plies the old tools of the tape manipulation trade in the current digital sphere. What this means is that he concentrates on editing, phase relationships, time dilation, and inherent and 3rd harmonic distortion as his only means of processing the information he is transforming. There is no looping involved, although #2 features a recording he made in 1984 using his controlled-skipping Lenco turntable.

AS IS AS is a live recording of a sound poem Z’EV produced and performed under the name “S. Weisser” at a Sound Poetry Festival in 1976 at the La Mamelle art space in San Francisco. It was produced using 2 reel to reel tape decks, 3 cassette decks, and 2 microphones.


Tracks 1-6. Headphone Musics 1-6
Track 7. As Is As


Dusted (USA):

Although industrial music pioneer and London resident Z’EV is primarily known for bringing non-traditional percussive voicings to the ’70s NYC avant-garde scene, he’s also a fearsome tape manipulator. With an uncanny ability to fuse the shockingly abrasive with the breathtakingly panoramic, Z’EV’s recorded work is both intimidating and sublime. His studies in collage began under the tutelage of Joseph Byrd – the oft mentioned University of California professor and one time United States of America leader – an auspicious beginning that led to the cataloging and re-assemblage of taped sound that is Headphone Musics 1 to 6. A deep plunge into a terrain of wide pans, intervalic distortion and “sound poetry,” the disc is another example of Z’EV’s preternatural compositional style.

While the study of phase relationships is not a new concept in experimental music, Z’EV manages to find a direct path to the otherworldly by employing visceral techniques that rarely allow the ear a moments rest. Found sound, scripted bashing on heavy commercial equipment, and shamanic singing are all part of the puzzle. Breath is deadly and whispers volcanic in Z’EV’s savage sphere. Though expansive, his rusty, howling works are spiked and barbed – exacting their pound of flesh from the listener with surgical precision. Like flickering shadows on slate grey walls, aural wrinkles appear and fade away with chaotic certitude, never content to settle into predictable patterns.

The curdled horror of “# 5” features sounds originally recorded in an empty three story printing press in Amsterdam in 1984. Menacing breaths, sighs and whispers waft through corridors of industrial clanging, creating an unsettling ambient domain. The space between sounds is as shuddersome as the sounds themselves, an attribute shared by most of the album’s seven cuts. Balinese tree frogs recorded in the ’70s form the basis of “#2,” some 14 stereo tracks including a “controlled skipping” turntable are employed to create sheets of cascading tone. The piece is perhaps the least harrowing of any on the record, but is still not entirely hospitable.

Z’EV’s 30+ year-old collection of tape may have provided the source material for the compositions on Headphone Musics, but it’s his skills in editing and time dilation that thread the sounds together in an encompassing environment of contemplative dread. Much has been made of Z’EV’s mystical and occult leanings, but even without an understanding of the esoteric elements that inform his themes, the music remains an evocative aggregate of mood and menace.
[Casey Rea]

Los Angeles Weekly (USA):

Celestial chimes tickle the periphery as a satanic storm rages in mid-cranium. Gushing salinity vibrates sinus cavities. Circular grindstone sharpens incisors. Pure abstraction, pure art, resonant graphics. Blackness. Peace.

VITAL (The Netherlands):

Z’EV has of course been active since maybe 80% of the Vital Weekly readership was either unborn or in diapers or playing around with ‘Let It Be’ – a mighty long time. Now mostly known for his percussion work since the early eighties, Z’EV (aka S. Weisser) attended in 1967 a tape class with Joseph Byrd (founder of the first electronic rock band The United States Of America) and the production of electro-acoustic music has been a main feature in Z’EV’s work throughout since then. On ‘Headphone Musics 1 To 6’, Z’EV offers six pieces which should be listened of course on headphones (and the booklet says ‘not the ones you wear on the street’). All of these pieces have been treated in the old-fashioned way, such as “editing, phase relationships, time dilation, and inherent and 3rd harmonic distortion”. Although I must admit that listening to music using headphones is something I very rarely do, but I did it with this CD (because “reviewers who don’t want to use headphones, should not bother to review this) and I must say that headphones indeed greatly advance the music. Much of the material appear in total stereo, but it’s spliced together in short time frames, meaning the sound bounces from left to right in a very close range. This gives the music an almost psychedelic feel. It’s hard to recognize any of the original soundmaterial, but my best guess it is a lot of processed field recordings. As a bonus ‘As Is As’ from 1976 is added. This sound poem was originally performed under the name of S. Weisser at a Sound Poetry festival in San Francisco and uses two reel to reel tape decks, three cassette players and two microphones. The density of the looped voices, also with a great stereo use, fits the headphone use quite well. The rhythmic element that is so present in all of Z’EV’s work works well, also on this level of tape music. Great release. [FdW]

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

De waarschuwing is niet mis te verstaan: wie niet de moeite neemt om deze cd met een koptelefoon te beluisteren, mag meteen ook afzien van de moeite om erover te schrijven! Gelukkig zijn wij gek op bevelen. Op ‘Headphone Music’ ruilt Z’EV zijn reputatie van ijzerhandelaar opnieuw in voor die van tapemanipulator (zie ook ‘Face The Wound’ in Gonzo 52), een interesse die teruggaat tot studies over tapemuziek in 1967. In al die jaren heeft Z’EV dan ook een indrukwekkend archief vergaard van duizenden gevonden, gekregen of zelfgemaakte cassettes. Dit bronnenmateriaal wordt herschikt (maar niet geloopt) tot zes broeierige draaikolken van stemmetjes, veldopnames, drones en metaal. Het geheel baadt in een spookachtig sfeertje dat liefhebbers van Nurse With Wound niet vreemd zal zijn. Behalve de opperste concentratie doet de hoofdtelefoonluisteraar zich inderdaad voordeel met het machtige stereo-effect. Het zevende stuk ‘As Is As’ dateert uit 1976, toen Z’EV onder de schuilnaam Stefan Weisser sound poetry ten gehore bracht terwijl hij live een batterij cassetterecorders manipuleerde. Het resultaat klinkt bijzonder bezwerend en lijkt eerder uit een alchimieboek dan uit een dichtbundel te komen. Voor wie Z’EV enkel kent als vurig plaatslager, is ‘Headphone Musics 1 To 6’ die ideale invitatie om met zijn atmosferische experimenten kennis te maken [Peter Deschamps]

Brainwashed (USA):

For this latest release, Z’EV entirely forgoes his familiar percussive experimentation in favor of a six-part cycle of tape music. It’s entitled Headphone Musics, and Z’EV seems pretty serious about the title, as he includes a rather petulant warning for reviewers: “If you can’t be bothered to listen to this music using headphones, please don’t bother to write about it.” Okay, point taken. I’m not one to disobey a direct order, so I made sure to listen on my most expensive pair of headphones. The six pieces are all between seven and nine minutes long, each one a dense architecture of multilayered sound drawn from Z’EV’s vast archive of tapes amassed over the last 30 years. Z’EV’s website ( gives extensive details on the source recordings and other elements that went into the making of each track, and while it’s all very interesting, I’m not sure it changes the listening experience in any profound way. Many of these sounds have been slowed-down and sped-up, rendering them unrecognizable in the densely populated mixdown of each track. What comes through on each of these pieces is Z’EV’s unique ear for harmonics and atmosphere, deftly combining disparate elements into walls of amorphously beautiful sound. For those who can stand this sort of thing, Headphone Musics is one of the better albums of tape manipulation to see release in recent years, from the standpoint of the average, non-academically minded listener. Though most musique concrête composers have begun to incorporate digital production techniques into their repertoire, Z’EV chooses to retain the purity of classic tape editing techniques, which gives the music a warmer analog feel, with plenty of hiss and distortion. Track one utilizes various recordings of dripping and running water to create a dark, immersive environment that envelops the listener. The time-stretched croaks of Balinese tree frogs are layered to hypnotic effect on the second track, which plays like a field recording from an as-yet-undiscovered subterranean jungle. Track four was my favorite, drawn from various obscure sources, most notably the singing of a shaman from a now-extinct tribe of Malaccan Indians. Z’EV uses layers of distortion and complex phase shifts to transform the track into a regressive mind-trip back through the genetic memory of previous evolutionary phases. Tacked onto the end of the album is a seven-minute recording from 1976 entitled “As Is As,” a tape-heavy fragment from a live sound poetry performance. The performance involved the simultaneous live manipulation of several vintage reel-to-reel tape players playing indecipherable vocal loops. It’s a fascinating piece of vintage Z’EV arcana, and underscores just how long he’s been doing this kind of thing; a true veteran of mind-blowing Industrial-strength experimentalism. [Jonathan Dean]

His Voice (Czechia):

Upozorn?ní pro poslucha?e: Tato hudba byla komponována výlu?n? pro poslech skrze sluchátka, i když pravd?podobn? ne zrovna ta, která nosíte na ulici. Upozorn?ní pro DJe v rádiích: Pokud náhodou budete hrát hudbu z tohoto alba, upozorn?te poslucha?e na správný poslech v zájmu zachování integrity jejich zážitku. Upozorn?ní pro hudební kritiky: Pokud se nehodláte obt?žovat poslouchat tuto hudbu p?es sluchátka, neobt?žujte se, prosím, o ní psát.

Z’EV, vlastním jménem Stefan Weisser, se na hudební scén? pohybuje rovn?ž pod zna?kami uns, Werx, GDG, Element L, Deesse ?i Magnet Bond. T?žišt?m jeho hudebního zájmu je bubnování a stavba p?edevším kovových perkusivních instalací (v?nuje se ale i elektronice, mnohdy s nádechem konceptualismu), které rozeznívá v duchu okamžitého prožitku a obohacujícího rituálu. Jeho tvorba je proto mnohdy temn? rozervaná, zast?ená a zvukov? nep?ístupná.

Novinka, jejíž booklet z?ásti cituji v úvodu, je však jiná a po srovnávacím poslechu skrz i bez sluchátek se musím p?ipojit k autorov? výzv?. Z’EV nás za hodinu stopáže provede sedmi (sic!) krajinami na hranici ambientu, noise, zvukové instalace a field recordings s umn? promíchanými tv?r?ími prost?edky všech jmenovaných kategorií. Jednotlivé stavební kameny jsou ?azeny ve volném tempu a jen velmi sporadicky rytmizovány. Svorníkem ob?as nesourodých prvk? je použití hallu, který je rozost?uje a jakoby “vzdaluje” a jen velmi jemn? slyšitelných frekvencí, jejichž puls dává jinak výrazn? statickému materiálu zdánliv? nenápadnou hybnost. Barvou použitých zvuk? Z’EVova novinka místy p?ipomene Hafler Trio, zmoc?uje se jich však bez McKenzieho po?ouchlosti a s p?evažujícím hudebním (ne konceptuálním) zám?rem, navíc chutn? ko?en?ným Weisserovým lehkým sklonem k monumentálnosti. Výsledek je sebejistý, pestrý a hladivý.

Na záv?r bych rád zmínil jméno autorky krásných ilustrací v bookletu. Je jí Tereza Stehlíková.
[Petr Ferenc]

indiepoprock (France):

Comme d’habitude, Touch nous propose une sortie d’un poids lourd en matière de musique expérimentale / électro-acoustique, j’ai nommé Z’EV. Cela va bientôt faire quarante ans (!!!) que notre ami Z’EV évolue dans le milieu de la musique électro-acoustique, ayant suivi son premier cours de « Tape music » en 1976 à UCLA.
Pas banal, donc, comme petite histoire pour un disque qui ne l’est pas moins. Car si ce « Headphones Music 1 to 6 » ne sort que maintenant, il n’en est pas moins composé de samples collectés durant ces trente dernières années, et reste la première livraison purement électro-acoustique de l’américain. Et sans rentrer dans des considérations trop techniques, disons que les traitements sonores ici réalisés sont volontairement limités (pas de boucles, par exemple). « As is as » est quant à elle une pièce datant de 1976, plus précisément les 8 dernières minutes d’une performances d’une demi heure donnée au « la mamelle art space » à San Fransisco.

Le résultat? Particulier, il va sans dire. Ne présentant selon son auteur aucun intérêt si elle n’est pas écoutée avec un casque, cette musique nous pousse à considérer le son dans l’espace. Une atmosphère ambiant et enveloppante, pour peu que l’on se laisse aller…car si les précisions techniques semblent importantes dans ce genre de productions, la meilleure solution reste selon moi de se laisser porter et entraîner dans cet univers sonore, véritable symphonie de bruits concrets que nous propose ici Z’EV.

Taucher (Germany):

Seit mehr als 40 Jahren wirkt Joseph Byrd alias Z`EV und hinterlässt ein Meisterwerk nach dem anderen. Die vorliegende Veröffentlichung kann in zwei Teile untergliedert werden, ohne in jene zu zerfallen. Die “Headphone Music Tracks 1-6” sind das Resultat einer seit 30 Jahren fortlaufenden Sammlung von Sound und Soundscapes, welche mit dem “klassischen” Tool der Tapemanipulation bearbeitet wurden. Dabei verzichtet Byrd auf Loops und lenkt seine Sounds in sich aufbäumende multiple Schichten. Dabei tragen sich die einzelnen Elemente und modulieren hinauf in höchste Sphären. Ein sich besonders unterm Kopfhörer erweiterendes Hörereignis. Der zweite Teil der CD bzw. Track 7 “As Is As” live aufgenommen auf dem Sound Poetry Festival in San Francisco (1976!) gräbt sich tief in die Gehörgänge ein und schabt rücksichtslos an der Hirnrinde. So bleibt ein wichtiger Schritt des Weges von Z`EV nun für die “Nachwelt” zugänglich und manifestiert die Ausnahmestellung dieses Künstlers.