Los Angeles experimental/IDM producer zenxienz only recently struck out on his own after spending his whole life in ensembles. The impetus for doing so, he says, was not entirely his choice. He was touring with a fairly successful band in Southern California when he was struck with a serious bout of depression. His mental illness sidelined him quite severely in 2015 through the middle of 2016 when, by his account, he found psychedelic therapy. This controversial experiment in using LSD and mushrooms to treat things like depression and anxiety seems to be creating quite a buzz in the scientific media of late, and zenxienz, given name Cameron Williamson, is becoming one of its biggest proponents. His best proof? His record two EPs and five singles between August and November of 2016. This musical and, clearly, psychological journey has culminated in the release of his debut full-length, Mind Sigh on February 17.
The tracks on Mind Sigh, if you know Williamson’s back story, definitely seem to represent both a struggle with depression and an experience with psychedelics. The first single of the album, “On Fire”, is a jazzy romp through both worlds. For those who may say that these are just chaotic sonic scribblings, a mushroom-induced stream of consciousness, however, that is simply not the case. Organized chaos is present to be sure, but the musical fusion that takes place is anything but an unconscious scribbling. zenxienz layers jazz, experimental hip hop, IDM and early ambient electronica over each other to create a many-textured and emotive composition whose formlessness is, in fact, its form. There are beats all around, but the listener is challenged to find a beat. That is, of course, when a structure appears as if from nowhere and then disappears again. Jazz fusion a’la Miles Davis can be heard in said drums, while the synth stylings are more Hudson Mohawke. Despite a discernible beat, the track pulses as if keeping its own time while layers of melody and samples swirl around the already swirling percussive components. Alice’s rabbit hole comes to mind, but only in the best possible way. Chaos is here to be sure, but no fear. Only experience and hope. And well-crafted music, of course.
“On Fire” and the rest of Mind Sigh really have to be heard to be understood. So much is said in each short song that it is difficult to sum up. Suffice it to say that whatever zenxienz did to work through his depression, it created some incredible music. No doubt the music healed him as well. Click the player below to hear “On Fire”. The rest of the album is available to stream or buy on zenxienz’s Bandcamp page.