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Heart Beat Ear Drum - Heart Beat Ear Drum(DVD) [Cold Spring - 2020]

Heart Beat Ear Drum is a 2015 documentary about Z'EV – one of the more original & distinctive figures to appear out of the early industrial scene of the late 1970s. US-born, though very much globetrotting, Z’EV was many things- percussionist, sound-artist, conceptual artist, scholar and poet, and this rather wonderful doc covers all sides of the man's work. From respected British industrial/noise/ experimental label Cold Spring- here we have a recent region free DVD release of the film- the label put out more than a few of Z’EV’s albums before he sadly passed in 20017- so it seems fitting for them to put out this DVD release.

Heart Beat Ear Drum was written & directed by New York-based Ellen Zweig- the documentary rolls in at one hour and fifteen minutes, and is a blend of live footage of Z’EV from between the late 1970s and 2014, and a host of interviews with the artists himself, his collaborators, and those who respected his work. For the most part, it remains informative & interesting through-out, as it’s broken up in the sections focusing in on certain facets of Z’EV work- though towards the end it did feel a bit like it outstayed it’s welcome, but this is only the last ten/ fifteen minutes.

The doc starts out showing footage of Z’EV early work in the late 70’s to early 80’s- when he was attaching metal- be its sheets, tubes, pots or tins to his arms- moving them around him to create both percussive sounds as well as performance art. He goes on to discuss trawling scrap yards in the early days- find the right type of metals to create different tones, pitches & textures of sound. As the doc goes on we get interviews with a few of his collaborator's like notoriously extreme US performance artists Johanna Went  & junk orchestra Bow Gamelan Ensemble. Moving on the doc touches on Z’EV concrete poetry work, the more performance art side of his work, & his tribal like art that appeared on some of his instruments. In the 1990s Z’EV mother passed away- so for a few years he stopped working altogether- and when he returned his work had become much more nuanced, detailed & controlled- with his latter out-put blurring the lines between percussive soundart, ambiance, and improv- with the doc wrapping up with later performances and footage from his London home.


The DVD comes with a color fold-out inlay- this features pictures of Z’EV performing, collecting elements to work with on the banks of the Thames, and his London Garden. Also, there’s a double-sided card talking about where his ashes were scattered- so a nicely put together set.

So in finishing if you have any interest in industrial, noise, or percussive performance art you really need to pick up this DVD. It’s great to see Cold Spring put out another DVD, and making such a nice job with its presentation- I look forward to seeing more of this type of thing from the label in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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