Exotic, otherworldly, highly creative, a strange rambling trip.
From the September 2005 issue of The Wire.
If information is scarce on Charles Edward Fambro, perhaps that's how he likes it - ZEP TEPI (a concept from Egyptian Mythology) seems to be a personal, almost secretive exploration of the arcane, with Fambro a largely solitary psychonaut, playing innumerable instruments (zither, theremin, field recordings, turntables) as well as crafting the artwork himself over a number of years. Part of his previous work is in sound installations, but judging from the enigmatic pseudo-graphic score on the back cover, dotted with Joan Miro-like squiggles and dots, this is the kind of pet obssesion a jobbing sound artist might throw himself into after getting home late, working feverishly through the night, and getting lost in cavernous reverb and freaky overdubs.
ZEP TEPI is a flamboyantly chaotic work, beginning with a percussive tattoo akin to Popol Vuh trying to turn their mantric percussion into Jungle breakbeats. This focus on the spiritual weight of percussion - mantras as a conduit for the exotic, the otherworldly - is one shared with another artist/multi-instrumentalist Guillermo E Brown. But whereas Brown's soundscapes are febrile and precise, Fambro's are perpetually at the point of overbalancing through the sheer overlaying of instruments. The title track and "Black Girls Rule Uptown" are both topped with an eccentric, meandering electric violin, aimlessly dancing through 12 tones in the upper registers, with satisfyingly incongruous interruptions from a public address system. The disorder here is sometimes a highly creative one, stumbling across some odd, often rather Krautrock-like passages, with the glowing synth ambience of "Black Mud Sound" and the Harold Budd-in-dub of "Ogunde" the best moments here. ZEP TEPI is a strange, rambling trip, but orderliness was never part of the programme anyway.