A Zen Paradox is also known as a "koan," a riddle which has no answer, intended rather to inspire contemplation. The most famous example of this form is the well-known phrase, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" (As a trivial exercise, slap the ends of the fingers into the base of the thumb as a response). What may not be so well known is the derivation of the title of this latest release from Steve Law, fully nine years after the release of "Catharsis," the last full-length Zen Paradox album. The word was used by Rudolph Otto to describe the experiential perception of the numinous - the supernatural, or more specifically, the transcendentally elevating. This is not music for meditation, however - the jarring electronic bleating of "Re-Entry" that opens the album is meant to provoke, not to soothe, and most of the tracks have energetic rhythms at their core, although some, such as the aptly-named "The Opaque Stillness," could perhaps provide the backdrop for controlled breathing exercises.
Given the long gestation period for this project (parts of "Dead Zone" predate the release of Chrysalis and several pieces were composed in the last century) the wide range of tempos and styles in not surprising. What is unexpected is how well they integrate to form a fluidly cohesive whole that while not overtly satori-inducing are nonetheless provocative of reflection. The song titles themselves provide further evidence that higher brain function will be required for full absorption: "Aedeagus." "Hematite." "Mycalesis Perseus." "Rhizobium." (This last separated from "Symbiotic Transfer" by "Robofunk," a sly testament to the composer's sense of humor, see "Aedeagus" for further confirmation). Musically, the album is a collection of glitchy, mostly mid-tempo electronica, sometimes bordering on the organic, but more frequently mechanical or at the very least mechanistic.
It is perhaps cliché to describe music of this sort science fiction-esque, but there's a ring of truth to that label that can't be denied, especially given the choice of song and album titles - if this isn't music for nerds, nothing is. Allowing that song is yet another form of storytelling, Numinusom surely has a place alongside Clarke and Gibson, Asimov and Dick, or more likely, the lyrical razor wielded by the inimitable Ray Bradbury. If a tree falls in the forest, will it make a sound of thunder?