Words by Grey Malkin
Zeuk, aka Cardiff based psychedelic poet and musician Marc Roberts, has been pursuing a highly creative and boldly singular vision since 2013’s debut Zeuk on the Reverb Worship label. A melding of hushed, alluring acid folk and dark Peter Hammill-like emotive power, the album immediately announced Roberts as a cornerstone of the new wyrd folk scene that was bubbling to the surface during this period. I See Horses, the follow up, was more ambitious still and further refined Robert’s influences into a unique and recognisable, though always pleasingly unpredictable, style. Awash with imagery of seahorses and eccentric characters or tales, this album in particular seems destined to be rediscovered as a previously hidden treasure in much the same way that the work of Mark Fry, Perry Leopold or Bill Fay now is. Marc’s 2021 outing as Zeuk, Crow Spanner (following the magnificently deranged and dramatic glam psych project Starlings Planet), was a beauteously eclectic offering, suggestive of such disparate reference points as Wire, Klaus Nomi and Current 93, and new long player Minutes continues in this magpie-like vein to great effect.
Opening with the gorgeous, brief acid folk whimsy of ‘Electric Daisy’ before segueing into the sinister, Paul Roland-esque ‘Emily’s Mask’, it is immediately apparent that this is a project whereupon Roberts has set himself strict creative parameters (namely the song length – all twenty-three tracks are a minute’s duration or under) but has let his melodic sensibilities have free reign. From the hallucinatory nursery rhyme of ‘My Name is Jason’ to the demented electronics and children’s chanting on the gothic T. Rex-ism’s of ‘I Am (The Meat Man), these may be experimentally hued vignettes, but they are also fully formed songs and earworms that will haunt and delight long after the fact. Amongst the highlights are the ominous folk ballad ‘Margate’, a medieval styled snapshot with a hint of something truly traumatic, the hypnotic psych guitar explorations of the percussive ‘Most People’ and the creeping, wraithlike strings that wrap around the doomed chanson of ‘The Museum of Broken Relationships’.
Elsewhere, the jagged guitars and shades of Van Der Graf Generator that permeate ‘Mushrooms’ elicit a genuine air of desperation, whilst the trepidous finger picking and unsettling whispers of ‘A Nation of Lemmings’ are perhaps suggestive of the dire state of the UK today. ‘Negative Norm’s ritualistic analogue synth swirls certainly contain more than a saucerful of secrets, and ‘Opal Eyes’ Hammond organ-backed romanticism is a genuine gem, a mini-psych symphony. Roberts’ strident and evocative vocals come to the fore on the acoustic ‘A National Debate’ and are then swathed in somnambulistic echo for ‘Sleepwalking’; indeed, Marc’s voice is the most immediately recognisable and consistent element throughout, providing a strong thread woven between songs and, even then, he utilises this as an instrument or tool to allow him to play with different moods, characters and narratives. Mention too must be made of the range of instrumentation and musical genres that Zeuk passes through on this whirlwind journey, from new wave John McGeoch-esque guitars to Floydian keys and delicate finger picked acoustic reverie.
Zeuk then, is a one-off, something special and unique, a true artist. Defiantly resisting any pigeonholes, he is properly psychedelic in the sense that he willingly explores other worlds, possibilities and altered perceptions outside the norm with careful abandon and then reports back to us. There is also something hugely addictive and intriguing, as well as challenging, about an album of one-minute songs; inherent is a sense of pleasant disorientation as we leap from one narrative or style to another, knowing that another will soon be on the way. There is no-one quite like Zeuk in today’s psych milieu, spend some minutes with him and his muse, you will not regret it.
Available on CD (with watch trinkets) and as a download on the Folk Archive label at https://davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com/album/minutes
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