iii) Shyan and the others take refuge by the fire

Shyan and the others take refuge by the fire. Its warmth is welcome, melting the crystals of ice that have made homes in their veins.

The Jiko eye them patiently. Some, away from the fire, play instruments: drums and flutes and primitive harps, producing an eerie, staccato music that hangs low in the cavern.

Several of the creatures bring a steaming cookpot off the fire. It smells of rosehips. They offer scoops of lumpy meat with limp, tasteless vegetables.

Fassn can’t contain his distaste for the stew. “Old Ajralan, may you have your fill,” he mutters, swallowing another mouthful.

When the group has had its fill, the lead Jiko — the only one with whom they have directly spoken — approaches once more.

“Esteemed visitors, it is good to see you have regained your vitality by taking small solace here in the home of the Jiko.”

The crowd of creatures murmurs agreement. The music stops.

“But now,” the Jiko continues, “we have great need of your help.”

zdbd – Harry, You’re a Beast

A strong, classical piano intro is followed soon by a high-pitched singer excoriating “you” for a life that’s “completely empty.” Rough stuff. The music builds, and with renewed vigour, the singer continues with his list of deficiencies. Finally, he names his target: “that’s you, American womanhood,” and an unsettling snort is accompanied by freeform bells. The song proper bursts back in with a new round of complaints, and then the song shifts, and a bored-sounding voice whines to “Madge” about her body.

A strange passage of distorted, backwards vocals and songs plays that recalls the Beatles’ experimental work at the same period. No coincidence, given this record’s cover. Madge laughs deliriously as Harry spouts that he “couldn’t help it.” The song builds and gives way to a seamless transition into What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body.

zdbd – Bow Tie Daddy

Here’s a short one for the books — Bow Tie Daddy serves as cathartic relief to the sadness that’s come before. An exaggerated old-timey jazz vocalist croons over a plinky tune, assuring the listener that “everything’s under control.” The song follows a standard jazz progression, and after a scant 32 seconds, and a single turn of the chorus, the song ends with a percussive flourish.

zdbd – Telephone Conversation

An old phone rings. Disconcertingly, it continues to ring even after it’s picked up. A sound collage of voices flows. Laurel Canyon is mentioned, and a woman mentions she thinks her phone line’s been bugged. “That’s quite all right,” her friend replies. Someone’s interrupted at the start of an anecdote about a woman’s father, with a curt, “Just a sec,” and at that instant this track gives way to the next.

zdbd – Mom & Dad

This ballad drips with melancholy from the opening chords — appropriately enough for a song about police violence. The tune itself takes on the position of “tragic consequence” to the sillier take on the subject presented in Who Needs the Peace Corps and Concentration Moon. Mom & Dad brings the topic to the parents of the hippies running wild in Frisco — who suffer because “they looked too weird — it served them right.”

The structure of the tune is a standard jazz pattern, but the bridge builds to a brief fury, with plaintive guitar behind. The song ends on an exceptionally dark note.

zdbd – Concentration Moon

A campfire-esque tune with multiple singers and slow, measured acoustic guitar. The effect of the harmonized vocals is unsettling, paints a picture of multiplicity. The song bemoans the plight of the hippies, shot down by cops in the streets. After a brief interstitial of whispered voices — and the re-introduction of Jimmy Carl Black — the tune takes another chorus, largely the same as the first. The bridge lyrics shift, though, to escalate the conflict between the hippies and the cops, and the song ends with a nasal voice intoning melancholically: “cop-killer creep — pow pow pow.”