Raw Voltage

Jun 16, 2004 at 12:00 am

Goudron is, essentially, Detroit-area visual artist Ron Zakrin stretching out into sonic space. And Raw Voltage, crammed with deceptively simple bleeps, blots and analog beats is a decent sonic döppelganger to his plastic work — particularly his acrylic paintings of enigmatic simians, at once threatening and lighthearted, similar yet each with a sparkle of its own warped DNA. That the lead cut is called “Art School Fuckheadz” hints that this isn’t going to be yet another exercise in austere Detroit post-industrial technocratic ga-ga.

Like his Ersatz brethren Jim Magas, Zakrin doesn’t necessarily want to stretch the space-time continuum. He’s content to make pop-length jams as suited for a commute to the local coffee shop as they are — when taken as a whole — a sound track to a night’s cruising Trenton or Plymouth.

On “Civil Symmetry,” there are whip noises that sound like cardboard cracked across a Dumpster punctuating the chunky, funky motoring electro-funk. Indeed, Zakrin owes equal debt to pre-Are We Not Men? Devo as he does the chill, melodramatic tomfoolery of Gary Numan. If God made man and a monkey supplied the glue, then Zakrin cribbed his vibe from Akron and wrapped it up in the ethos of “Me! I Disconnect From You.” Keeping it a fully, er, Midwest product, analog synth farts on tracks like “Rumble Queen” take a minute or so before settling in with the lost spirit of Wax Trax circa ’87. And, thankfully, Zakrin/Goudron don’t horse around with throwing vocals into the mix, presumably to let the noodling take center stage. And Zakrin’s hand at the noodling desk seems to indulge in tickling the line between the seemingly tossed-off and the coldly calculated. There’s something beautiful about an electronic track that just gets its hooks in you as it’s wrapping up. You realize you’re being fucked with. “Odyssey Love” (presumably an ode to the obsolete-upon-completion-of-sale ’80s gaming system) is a terse transmission in treble, reverb twinkle and the kind of beat that Depeche Mode once used to make young girls cry. On whole, it’s a snapshot of an artist as a young fan, but compelling enough in spots to take home to mother. Of course, this whole collection could just be a calculated attempt to land a tune in a VW ad.

E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].