19 January 2010












Bryan Lewis Saunders delivers a feverish spoken word journey through a mysterious stomach ailment attributed to an elusive & abusive entity known as Daku…  Accompanied by legendary percussionist Z'EV's sound work.  The professionally printed and pressed cd is packaged inside a gatefold mailer that has been painted twice, sanded and finished with a two color screenprint front and back.



This is a hypnotic collaborative work featuring performance artist Bryan Lewis Saunders and legendary industrial percussionist Z’Ev. It centers around a grueling spoken-word performance by Saunders about a mysterious infection of crippling pain he (or the character he’s playing) suffered as a teenager.
The journey of Daku leads us from sudden, unexpected onset – as Saunders is a teen eating popcorn in a cinema, through fear and paranoia, medical necessity to humiliating clinical exams, cynical self-loathing and social criticism, to psychotic ranting and raving as Daku gains control and persona.
The thrill here is in the manic delivery of Saunders. We are led - swiftly - through credible description of the initial fear and terror of the first grip of Daku on the young victim, the inhumanity and disbelief of the medical community, to the crazed anthropomorphisation of Daku as a malignant, wilful entity, to the fevered conspiracy theories of Daku and his/its influences on everything you can imagine. Parts of this tale are entirely emotive and believable – we’ve all been in positions where pain is unbelievable, where a doctor doesn’t believe us (or pooh-poohs our symptom), where we’re subjected to invasive or unpleasant tests and yet return a negative result. So the decline into Daku-mania is not one Saunders need take wholly alone. Yet his decline is rapid and irreversible. He quickly descends from jabbering paranoid to incoherent near-catatonic. As the disease – and the album progresses – things slow to jellified pace. Mental faculty is apparently impacted by Daku. Adrenaline production too. So as Saunders embraces his affliction we slow to a snails’ pace. All the ranting and raving comes to a slow, creepily artificial stop.
Z’ev is well-known for his genre-defining work as an industrial percussionist and sound artist. Here he matches Saunders’ psychosis/hypochondria with a sound-world made entirely of reprocessed vocal sounds from Saunders. It’s the equivalent of the doctor asking you to say, “Aaaah”; processed, looped, cut and pasted and recombined, it’s a sonic environment unlike anything I’ve heard from Z’Ev before. It’s strange, biological yet artificial, occasionally percussive. And it’s perfectly suited to the crazed performance of Bryan Lewis Saunders.
This is a special album. It comes in a lovingly-produced card sleeve, screen-printed to look like the deranged graffiti of a Daku mental case. The sound quality is impeccable, which means the maximum level of craziness emanates from your speakers at every possible moment. The pairing of Z’Ev’s craftsmanship with Saunders’ performance-art hyperbole works perfectly. ‘Daku’ is a dark and disturbing journey into disease and madness that I’d recommend to my best friends.

Unaesthetic - Heathen Harvest



This sui generis collaboration between z'ev and performance artist Bryan Lewis Saunders seems at first to be a dark comic routine. It starts with Saunders - or the character he is performing, for it is not clear where autobiography ends and fiction begins - recounting the onset of an excruciating stomach pain when he was a teenager. Medical interventions, rectal examinations and a cystoscopy which causes him to 'piss razorblades for 24 hours straight' yield nothing. I have to confess that listening to all this was particularly uncomfortable because I suffered unexplained stomach pains in my early twenties, and underwent similar tests, with equally inconclusive results. 'Pain has a way of making you make sense of it,' Saunders says. the mysterious pain induces a frenzy of fruitless speculation, until the pain itself becomes an entity, a vicious superego, interrogating and tormenting Saunders about his behaviour and motivations: what had he(italics) done to bring it about? He wanted it to happen, didn't he?
Saunders expertly takes us through a series of moods and modes, moving from a geekish dolefulness to angry fulminations against the medical profession & ultimately to 'a philosophy of the hole and the anti hole', a florid schizo-theology worthy of Judge Schreber, in which Daku - the pain entity - becomes a principal of primal negativity, analogous to Freud's death drive. For most of the record, Z'EV provides the equivalent of incidental music, setting a foreboding mood with rumbles, throbs, sounds that resemble troubled respiration, and high pitched electronic screams at the points of greatest distress and fury. It is the final track - which consists of a devotional chant to Daku constructed out of Sauders's multitracked timestretched voice - that is the closest thing to music. throughout, though, this is a compelling and original combination of voice and sound.

Mark Fisher - WIRE



Certainly one of the stranger releases I recently reviewed was Bryan Lewis Saunders' 'N1-N4 Variations', of him talking in his sleep. Here he has another set of spoken word - four stories and an introduction of the word 'Daku'. It can be love, time, god or anything. Its meaning is its use, Saunders says. Saunders recites his texts, or rather tells his stories and Z'EV uses his voice to create the music. Z'EV's recent outings in electronic music, say 'Forwaard' and 'Outwaard', where he processes environmental sounds and which are far away from his usual percussion based work (although nothing new for him, as Z'EV also created text sound pieces in the earlier days of his career). Even when following the text is something that I don't always do, concentrating more on the texture of the voice in combination with the music, this is a great story telling release. Saunders has a great voice, telling stories about being sick and pain that grabs the listener, while Z'EV provides a fine soundtrack to it. The voices are transformed into animalistic cries and whispers, adding scary elements to the music. I'm not entirely sure if it is meant as such but there is an uneasy, horror like element that is part of this music. Excellent radioplay stuff.  

Frans de Waard - Vital Weekly



Holy shit - I'm hooked.  Saunders lays out a hysteria-spat monologue about a sickening and strange pain named Daku/Maku that takes a man to his breaking point alongside recollections of abuse and violence.  Backed by Z'EV's extraordinary percussion of scrapes, slides and black drones this is a rotted LSD trip, bleaker and more aggressive  than pretty much anything else out there without needing gore or torture porn vibes. 

Scott Mckeating - Rock-A-Rolla



Z’EV is primarily known as an idiosyncratic percussionist who strikes instruments of his own creation—large, suspended pieces of steel and plastic—to make astounding and fresh sounds.  Active for over four decades, he is a scholar of mystical texts of Kabbalah and a pioneer of industrial music, among other distinctions.
On the CD Daku, Z’EV reveals himself to be an adept sound sculptor, by taking spoken-word pieces from Bryan Lewis Saunders and dramatically altering choice vocal snippets to create an unsettling soundtrack.  To clarify: all music on Daku was created from electronically manipulated voice samples, radically transformed to the point that they are often not even recognized as being a human voice.
Bryan Lewis Saunders is a Johnson City, Tennessee-based visual artist and spoken-word performer whose pieces are often profoundly disturbing; the fact that his stories are taken from real life makes them even more disturbing.  Daku is no exception, being about Saunders’s severe encounters with physical pain, leaving him constantly in fear of it returning and also apprehensive towards doctors, whose diagnostic tests are draining (in more ways than one), intrusive, and sometimes humiliating.
In the album’s introduction, Saunders explains that the word “daku” can stand for “love, time, God, or any other word” and that “its meaning is its use”; this is best illustrated in “Giving It a Name,” a mile-a-second ire-filled word stream about daku, representing Saunders’s emotional and physical turmoil as a sort of intense implosion.
The sonic backdrop created by Z’EV has everything between deep rumbles and piercing tones, and it’s often reminiscent of a sci-fi horror-movie soundtrack.  Daku is a difficult, yet worthwhile immersive listening experience, combining the eerie and disquieting sound manipulations of Z’EV with Saunders’s affecting story and gripping delivery.

Ernie Paik - The Pulse (Chattanooga's Weekly Alternative)



DAKU Riveting narratives by Johnson City’s “Brainsander”, who’s had collaborative involvement with artists such as Sage Francis. This time, the work is fed into the hands of ‘rhythmajikal’ American percussionist Z’EV, who processes Saunders’ voice through a gauntlet of intensive editing to enhance the tension and make you feel even more connected. For a spoken word poet, we have quite a character: he’s made about 7,000 self-portraits by now, drawing himself at least once a day since 1995. “Day after day expelling demons, stress, anxiety, fears… You know - the garbage we go through everyday in life and dumping it out like trash in one big continuous creative act. For years it kept me introverted, so I got into storytelling as a way to come out of my shell and share, you know - to balance it out”. I guess that unless you’re a discerning connoisseur of sickness/suffering, and you’re willing to accept your share of it, it takes a certain amount of work to appreciate DAKU’s haunting confessions/metaphors. But the good news is they all fall into place, and you won’t fell like you don’t belong to them. According to the intro, “DAKU” has its meaning is its use (i.e. contextual placement) - linguistic superstitions born from our own daily conversations…

Doru - The Cookshop


Daku: Before I bought this album I had a little familiarity with the experimental percussionist Z’EV though his Ghost Stories album, but Bryan Lewis Saunders, who is definitely the star of this album, was a complete unknown to me. Daku was released last year on Saunders’ own Stand-Up Tragedy label, I believe as a CD-R limited to 77 copies. It’s a spoken word album. The only other releases in this genre that I own are the collaboration between Spacetime Continuum and Terence McKenna and a couple of Ester Brinkmann CDs, but I’m beginning to believe that listening to speech can be just as rewarding as listening to conventional music. And I don’t think the rewards always come from understanding the words. Saunders talks about this concept of “daku”. I won’t claim to understand exactly what it is, and near the end everything gets a little confusing, but at least one interpretation of it is some sort of creature (as depicted on the cover, I think) that lives inside the artist and causes sudden and excruciating pain. I can imagine that some people might be somewhat irritated by Saunders’ voice, which is nasally and has a bit of Southern twang, but I don’t have a problem with it. Z’EV’s hand in the project is to create background music. Rather than banging on various objects as he usually does, this time he creates dark ambient soundscapes and bursts of noise purely from the original vocals, and it works surprisingly well. It’s a pleasant surprise of an album, full of honest emotion and truly passionate words.





It’s a collection of very extreme vocal recits from Bryan Lewis Saunders, with sonic accompaniment by Z’EV. Saunders recounts nightmarish tales of mental anguish and medical disasters, with titles like ‘The Absurdity of Pain’, some of them involving anal penetration and much personal bodily agony. Saunders’ work has been described as “visceral” and “confrontational”, and his very urgent near-hysterical voice on these pieces (he literally sounds like he is possessed by demons) will probably alarm most listeners, if not repel them entirely, while Z’EV’s eerie distorted electronic sounds also tend to induce paranoia, claustrophobia, and a general sense of unease. This document of extreme performance art comes packaged in a handsome silk-screened wallet.  

Ed Pinsent - The Sound Projector




Legendary industrial percussionist and occult scholar Z'ev again moves further into the field of digitally processed drones and steely mechanical ambience with this new collaboration with Bryan Lewis Saunders. Saunders, a spoken word artist from Tennessee, delivers a bizarre spoken narrative that deals with the protagonist becoming afflicted by a strange malevolent organism that takes up residence inside of his GI tract, a kind of surrealistic Cronenberg-style body horror delivered via an aggressive Burroughsian spoken prose approach. This narrative is accompanied by an unnerving backdrop of dark ambience, metallic drones, and digitally processed vocal noise that Z'ev creates using manipulated recordings of Saunders own voice as the source material. The voice recordings are often subtly warped into bestial growls or demonic whispers, and whenever Saunders voice undergoes one of these sudden transformations, the effect can be chilling. Most of the processed sounds aren't even recognizeable as coming from a human voice, though, as Z'ev manages to reshape them into deep Lustmordian drones and bursts of modulated rumbles. This approach is similiar to the dark layered musique concrete and tape manipulations that Z'ev employed on his Forwaard and Outwaard albums on Korm Plastics, and the combination of sound sculpture and nightmarish text on Daku is an enthralling experience for fans of industrial/spoken word collaborations. Not that you see this sort of recording nowadays. This feels like something I would have ordered through Subterranean about twenty years ago, and it certainly fits right in with the pro-spoken word crowd over at Outfall Channel. These creepy sound experiments definitely create a riveting listening experience. Comes packaged inside of a gatefold mailer that is silkscreened in black, red and silver inks.

Crucial Blast





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