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July 18-24, 1990

Z Whiz
Westword page 30




Her voice ranges from the guttural depths to operatic soaring. Often at the same time, too: Digital delay units echoing her sounds allow the singer to accompany herself. Then there are the instruments: maybe an electric guitar, but more likely a Slinky or a giant plastic water bottle. The metallic Slinky becomes a percussion instrument when pushed through the digital delay, sounding like a weird maraca the water bottle just gets thumped, resonating dramatically as a surreal, transparent Drum.

Back in 1984, Pamela Z left Boulder in the guise of folksinger Pam Brooks, only to find her move to San Francisco complicated by the Bay Area presence of another performer named Pam Brooks. That troublesome detail inspired not only Brooks' name change, but her musical evolution.

She reincarnated herself as Pamela Z, who's far more a performance artist than a folksinger. The superb, multi octave voice is the same and the songwriting skills are as finely honed, though the new tunes are less structured. But the twelve-string guitar is gone, replaced by the digital delay unit she discovered just before her move. All the changes have been for the betterŠ both for Pamela Z and her audiences. Her cassettes have gotten good airplay (locally on KGNU) and she's opened concerts for the likes of Nina Hagen. Her performance last year at Boulder's Penny Lane (like her show the year before at Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis) was simutaneously adept and raw, clever and straightforward, funny and profound. Having watched Laurie Anderson's mutation from underground to upscale over the past few years, I found an evening of Pamela Z in an intimate venue infinitely refreshing. She proves a solo performer with minimal equipment and lots of creativity can still startle and surprise an audience.

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