With 333 Arvo Zylo has created a work of fast-paced, multi-faceted industrial and ambient noise that ostensibly strives to bridge chaos and order into an uneasy friendship in what feels like a hallucinogenic train ride taking place on a contorting and distorting Moebius strip. One can imagine the proverbial kitchen sink getting torn off the wall and melted down with the other instruments in the effort of maximizing the amount of disarray and variation, as at one point bowling balls collide against their possible future selves to only be immediately wiped out of existence like in a quantum experiment, while in another a dull rhythmic clanging adds composure to a boiling sea of lo-fi noise only to get pushed aside moments later by some evil pinball game that’s grown arms, pulled itself out of its foundation and is starting to chase you out of the arcade. Everything comes together only to fly apart moments later, a kind of taunt between freedom and the celebration of its immediate destruction. Indeed, the very concept of freedom only makes sense in the context of its antithesis, a concept that Arvo apparently revels in in the wild structure of these three fairly long compositions. Although many reviewers of 333 have emphasized a nightmarish or freakish characteristic to its myriad sharp angular turns and changes, it seems to me, on the whole, a rather playful and even cheerful album. There are components of discord as much as there are elements of more familiar synthetic melody, as in the third part of Quicksand Eggs of a Beaten Pathos, or the conclusion of Plasthma. The melody that does exist is mostly upbeat rather than dark, making me picture a revolt of carnival clowns or robots, rather than anything truly dreadful, a matter that could be contingent on the degree to which one fears clowns, I suppose, and clowning around. Three tracks with names as whimsical as their contents comprise 333, which, according to Arvo Zylo, was a number that obsessed him at the time of creation, something I’m sure Carl Jung would have a lot to say about were he alive today. Among the history or folklore (or both) associated with the album is that it was originally recorded in 2003 in a “closet that stood in the bowels of a rat infested house with a flooded basement”, and then was refined in the span of 6 or 7 years before it was ultimately released in a CD-R in a probably limited run in 2009/2010. It subsequently had a tribute album created for it called 333Redux featuring a number of prominent experimental names and has now been released again 13 years later (the 3 keeps coming up again and again, synchronicity be damned).
As the pattern seeking machines that we humans are, happily reinforcing our biases to bolster our emotional motives, perhaps there is no better time than now to re-release this colorful rollercoaster ride of an album, living as we do in a modern hall of mirrors culture made possible by computer technology and reinforced social media bubbles, slowly but surely chipping away at any semblance of our individual choices and personalities (provided we have any at all). 333, like its protagonist’s plight, can be all that you want it to be. Or not. For some, it will be irritating in its exasperating speed and inability to hold tightly to any one straw for long, while simultaneously for others it will be a breath of fresh air in its flirting with chaos and a remedy to so much of the predictability and genre-slavery of music today. I predict the degree to one’s exposure to such a sound will play a part in one’s judgment, but in any case, there is no question that Arvo’s 333 is an interesting and highly complex work that will provide many rewards on repeat listens - provided one is strong enough to meet the challenge.
Read more of my reviews in issue 10 of Convivial Hermit, order here.