In the infancy of Zen Mother, Monika Khot and Adam Wolcott Smith were on a mission to make the most thunderous, expressive, organic, and transcendental music possible given their limited means. Culling from the dizzying scope of psychedelia, the dystopian collages of This Heat, and the conceptual aims of avant-garde composer Igor Wakhévitch, the duo’s creative process was an intense ritual in channeling cabalistic ideas through exploration and experimentation. The early Zen Mother recordings traversed a variety of timbres and approaches—from swirling walls of hallucinatory distortion to pulsating drone pop to feverish krautrock-imbued meditations and everywhere in-between. And somehow they threaded a continuous aura of futurist Shamanism through it all.
Through years of vagabond touring across North America and abetted by solo endeavors like Khot’s revered solo project Nordra, Zen Mother learned how to distill the most potent aspects of their sound and refined their approach accordingly. That ongoing refinement hasn’t stifled their love for the grandiose—as evidenced by their original score to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain released in 2019 under the title The Ascent. Across its nearly two-hour run time, Zen Mother offers up blissed out drones (“Lumache”), nightmarish industrial dirges (“Body Factory”), serene synth arpeggios and 8-bit glitches (“Mars”), and pastoral acoustic guitar sonatas (“Travelling and Learning”). Listening to The Ascent, there appears to be no limit to the collective capabilities and artistic drive of Khot and Wolcott.