Pamela Z

"quotes" from the press

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LOS ANGELES TIMES January 16, 1998

("Shifting Conditions in the Southland", Pamela Z & The California E.A.R Unit, January 14, 1998, The LA County Museum of Art )

"A s one of the reigning new music ensembles on the West Coast, the California EAR Unit lived up to its reputation Wednesday night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They served up no fewer than three world premieres, and one of those was a unique interaction with Bay Area-based vocalist-loopist-performance artist Pamela Z. Contemporary credentials were in order. ...Pamela Z is, as the saying goes, an intriguing bunch of people, a vocalist who mixes street instincts with vestiges of operatic singing and other between-style sounds, and she also is a gifted improviser and manipulator of delay loops to build up layers of sound. With her new piece "Shifting Conditions in the Southland," Z threw the Unit into the loop, passing it pleasant, simple materials to play as a foil for her voice."

~Josef Woodard


20TH CENTURY MUSIC May 1997 Vol. 4 No. 5

("LAYERS", Pamela Z & Lukas Ligeti, February 20, 1997, The LAB, San Francisco )

"...Pamela Z used her well-honed classical voice, processors, and samples activatied by the BodySynth, and insturment that allows the performer to trigger sound with physical gestures by means of electrodes taped to the body. Z's performance was carefully choreographic, mildly radical-looking yet genteel in spirit. Typically, she would set up an ostinato pattern and float a lyrical soprano line over it, enriching the texture with varying samples set off by the BodySynth. In several of her "LAYERS" she pursued a found sound theme: A parking garage with its mechanical ticket machine voices ("Car Park"), a bus driver's repetitious phrases ("Metrodaemonium"). In a sement called "Typewrite," she delivered a clackity ode to a broken Macintosh set against scrubbing erasers and bemused soprano hummings. Of the six Pamela Z pieces, the highlights for me were "Metrodaemonium" and "Bone Music," both on the first half of the program. "Metrodaemonium" was an expansifve sound paintin that used a rich variety of samples, including a swelling croawd sound of multi-tracked speaking voices, to good effect. "Bone Music" reached a timelss, primeval simplicity, something like a Meredith Monk Song."

~Kathryn Ketman


20TH CENTURY MUSIC February 1997 Vol. 4 No. 2

("OPUS415 No. 2", Common Sense Composer's Collective's Second Annual Bay Area New Music Marathon, November 17, 1996, The ODC Performance Gallery, San Francisco )

"...Next the great Pamela Z astounded in a suite of pieces from a tour of Japan...spotlighting digital delay, sampling madness, and body synthesizer. With a voice to melt the soul, the singer triggered sound with wrist actions and looped phrases into a wacky sound assemblage -- increcible! Multitracked four-bar phrases, added scat, and intantaneous overdubs were a 90's repsonse to Reich's "Come Out" and a post-modern swing-shuffle."

~Carolyn Hautbois and Philip George


ThingReviews NYC 6/11/96

("Bang On A Can Festival", June 2, 1996 , Alice Tully Hall Lincoln Center, NYC)

"Pamela Z is a wonderful performer. She was wired up like a suicide bomber. I couldn't quite make out which wires led to where but every time she moved a part of her body she triggered a sound bite. The samples were of people asking directions, conductors on subway cars, tourists, etc. She did a Joan La Barbaraesque vocal treatment over the top of her strange acoustic dance. Her voice is beautiful and her range is broad..."

~Kenneth Goldsmith WFMU


WEST Magazine A publication of the San Francisco Art Institute Winter 1996/97

("Z Program 40", July 13, 1996, The LAB, San Francisco )
Click here for full text of article.

"...The thing that strikes me most about Pamela Z is how her work combines opposites of high and low tech into a synthesis that echoes live at the post-industrial, post-post-modern, post-everything end of the 20th century. On the one hand, she uses simple elements -- like found sound, texts, her own (excellent) voice and noises generated on state by hitting a stick or a water bottle or whatever. On the other, she's literally wired up to all sorts of high-tech gizmos and widgets that record and transform fundamentally straightforward sounds into textured layers that she weaves together on the fly, in real time.

Pamela Z waves and arm, and a sound or a word emerges from an amplified sound system. She stamps her foot and you hear something else... It's amazing. Like a minimalist, she creates a piece out of a small set of sounds, sampled or created live and joined by a series of overlapping, intersecting loops. But from a simple beginning she builds up layer upon layer of sound until she's created a bewildering, mesmorizing, highly organized cacophony that taps deeply into the infosaturated, dataoverloaded, hyperventilated psyches of urban life. The result is both intellectually satisfying and powerful at the gut level."

-John Weber, Curator/SFMOMA


STEREO REVIEW August, 1994

(From A to Z, Starkland)

"...From A to Z is full of fresh, inventive sonorities and often a genuine sense of fun. The San Francisco-based Pamela Z's vocal-dominated work is like Meredith Monk gone wild. I particularly enjoyed her Obsession, Addiction and the Aristotelian Curve."

David Patrick Stearns


MICROTIMES June 28, 1993 Issue #110

("Dream Encoding" Pamela Z w/Zakros Interarts- New Music Theatre, Apple Expo West 1993)
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"...The best thing at the Apple Expo West was Dream Encoding, a performance piece by a local San Francisco Bay Area artist, Pamela Z. Dream Encoding started with a conservatively dressed young woman giving a markenting demonstraiton of a new product, Art-O-Matic. "Why bother with practicing?" claimed the presenter. The product promised to bestow instant "art" to the user. "No matter how dull or uninteresting your life has been, Art-O-Matic will bring an instant lifestyle change."

The demonstration featured a series of professional-looking packaged computer and video screen displays. Suddenly the displays were filled with a woman with wild dreadlocked hair, who peered about, and then disappeared. This apparition disturbed the demonstration and the poor marketing representative's composure. She kept trying to get things back on track, but the strange video character, who looked remarkably similar to the presenter, kept returning, interfering and finally taking over the demonstration. The displays went wild, changing colors, picturing natural scenes and strange effects. The presenter herself was transformed, suddenly singing opera and then merging with the video version of herself. Of course, the video perosnality and the markeing representative were one and the same person, the singer/performance artist, Pamela Z.

The work, sponsored by Media Tree, a San Francisco video services company, and Zakros Interarts/New Music Theatre, a nonprofit art organization, was very complex in execution, and relied upon many different computer and video technologies. The performance was supported by a crew running several live video cameras, video controllers, MIDI synthesizers, and Macintosh computers. The primary hardware for video display and control were from Fast Electronics, a German company... Pamela Z was able to adjust some of the music and video effects through a BodySynth controller... invented by local e-music guru, Ed Severinghaus.

Some onlookers thought that Art-O-Matic was a real product, which flabbergasted Pamela Z. She thought it "totally bogus" when audience members inquired where and when Art-O-Matic would be available to the public. Other viewers maintained there were two different women (credit to Pamela Z's acting ability), and that the nice saleswoman couldn't possibly be Pamela in a wig..."

David Morgenstern


HOUSTON CHRONICLE February 4, 1992

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("SonicWorks" The Art Guys, Jerry Hunt, Joan LaBarbara, David Moss, Pamela Z, and Richard Zvonar at DiversWorks, Houston 1992)

"...Pamela Z, a vocalist from San Francisco, was the dynamite act of the three concerts I saw... Using electronic tape loops, she created her own, accompaniment from simple sounds, vocal or otherwise. One came from hitting an empty plastic water bottle with a gloved open hand. Over and around these accompaniments, she wove funny, sad, melancholic and otherworldly songs. The songs were polished and her performances electric. With Richard Zvonar, she made fun of Tipper Gore, Jesse Helms and the people who found supposed mental manipulations in rock albums. Yes, she had her own subliminal messages: One comprised her and Zvonar's names pronounced backward."

-Charles Ward



"...Pamela Z's art --an unpredictable combination of spoken and sung texts electronically reshaped and textured through digital delays -- is indeed out for the ordinary. And her striking appearance turns heads even in the hip, boho cafe in the Mission, where idiosyncrasies are worn like badges. Buth the woman who inspires such descriptions as "post-punk performance paragon" is anything but the poseur that the SoMa trappings might indicate."

Derk Richardson


THE VILLAGE VOICE October 4, 1990

(Roulette, New York 1990)

"...She had tremendous power at her disposal... The hockets she sang against her won delayed voice, the counterpoint she kept going by herself, were so smooth that I'm eager to see what she could do if somebody threw some real money at her. Z's a fixture on the San Francisco scene, and it's hard to believe she'd never played New York before. She's too funny, inventive, and talented to keep a secret."

-Kyle Gann


WESTWORD Denver July 18-24, 1990
Click here for full text of article.

"Her superb, multi-octave voice ranges from the gutteral depths to operatic soaring...She proves a solo performer with minimal equipment and lots of creativity can still startle and surprise an audience."

-Nancy Clegg



(Echolocation, ZED)

"...Using such simple techniques as multiple delay lines and multi-tracking, Ms. Z creates lustrous sonic landscapes using her highly trained vocal cords. But the star here isn't the playing or the effects, but Pamela Z's lovely voice itself."

Richard Kadrey


S.F.WEEKLY November 15, 1989

"...When Pamela Z takes the stage, she's mesmerizing. Her compelling stage presence and intense performance style are part of her pull, but it's more than that. As her use of digital delays shapes her strong, expressive voice into textured layers of sound, the combination of that technique with her original use of movement and odd musical instruments/props, enables Pamela Z to create evocative performances that have the ring of poetry."

Liz Sizensky


SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (Datebook "Pink Section") October 15, 1989

"Her big, round voice goes with a comely face and a dancer's poise, and gives the music a lively context that cassette tapes could not manifest."

Calvin Ahlgren


OPTION MAGAZINE September-October, 1988

(Echolocation, ZED)

"...Pamela Z has a rich, elastic voice that compares favorably with Kate Bush or Sally Oldfield; yet her use of that voice, gliding seamlessly through varied shades of echo, loops, and digital delay, has a striking and original effect. Though backings change radically with each song (muted percussion, 4/4/ rock, seas of voices), the vocal textures remain consistant from cut to cut, approximating the thick choral effect in Steve Reich's Tehillim. Her text readings -- cut-ups from an old issue of Phonolog Report in "pop titles 'you'" and especially the original prose of "in the other world" -- favorably recall the voice experiments of Roberta Eklund. The most striking aspect of Z's work is her ability to turn echo and delay -- easily overused contrivances -- into her own personal style."

Dino DiMuro



(Echolocation, ZED)

"...There is some synthesizer and drum programming here, but the heart of the release is Pamela's own vocals, which are multi-tracked in a major way. Ranging from spoken word to sustained notes, they paint a vocal picture of great depth, with ideas and words echoing in taut psychological fashion. A new sort of music, not comparable to much of anything else, but quite fascinating."




(Z Program ONE, The LAB, San Francisco, August 8,1987)

"The words, "multi-media performance" filled me with terror. But talent and wit prevailed in dangerous territory. Vocalist/electronics whiz Pamela Z and her buddies took us on a wild circus ride through an extra-terrestrial, omni-technical, hip-hoppin' happy world. As if her own mod operatics weren't enough, Z gathered a troupe of artists wild enough to burn the roof off the avant-garde: stilt dancing, Chapman Stick playing, primal choreography, and Terra Incognita's friendly sea creature music. Alaric's aural fog rolled through the open spaces as we gave ourselves over to the widest variety of legal stimuli available since the Army's acid tests. All the perils of "pehrfohrmahnce ahrt" were skillfully avoided with plenty of Z-style heart and charm. LIFE IS STRANGE AND GOOD, I thought as I skipped down Divisadero Street afterwards."

Ann Powers



(181 Club, San Francisco, November 15,1986)

"...The sound is like and avant-garde angelic host practicing Frippertronics. With originals like the metaphorical "Pearls, the Gem of the Sea," or the late-night eating sendup, "Ciao, Fun," Pamela Z is both challenging and amusing."

K. Byrn

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