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In the Ojibway language, the word Zoongide’ewin means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit.” It’s no wonder Daniel Monkman adopted Zoon as their musical moniker. The Hamilton-based musician has spent the better part of their 28 years finding and channelling their strength to overcome such adversities as racism, poverty and addiction.
Music saved Monkman’s life. And, on Zoon’s debut album, Bleached Wavves, they paint a message of hope and fortitude, lessons they learned studying the Seven Grandfather teachings after experiencing the lowest point of their life.
Born and raised in Selkirk, Manitoba, a small prison town outside of Winnipeg they describe as “one of the roughest places,” Monkman constantly faced an uphill battle. In their teens they were victimized for their First Nations heritage, which led them to abusing drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Their best friend died of an overdose; they nearly followed him on multiple occasions. But with the spiritual guidance they learned from 12-step therapy, Monkman got clean and began to follow a passion for music they discovered from a young age growing up within the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.
Bleached Wavves is the first true document of what has been dubbed “moccasin-gaze,” a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the amalgamation of Monkman’s shoegaze influences with traditional First Nations music. Like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, a record that changed everything for them, Zoon pushes forward that famously quixotic, effects-laden sound with a distinctive, new approach.
A song like “Help Me Understand,” which mixes traditional hand drumming with gliding waves of droning guitar, feels like new ground has been broken for shoegaze fanatics to obsess over. As they got more into this mindset of mixing cultures, Monkman went even further with their trials, emerging with their most radical vision, the trance-inducing “Was & Always Will Be.”
Like most things in their life, making the album didn’t come easy for Monkman. Their gear was stolen, leaving them with virtually nothing and forcing them to get creative. They recorded the songs in their bedroom and jam space, using only a Fender Deville guitar, a DigiTech delay pedal and - channelling their hero Kevin Shields - some “reverse engineering.”?
Once it was finished, they got the music into the hands of the late publicist Darryl Weeks, who quickly became a fan of what he heard. With Weeks’ guidance and industry knowledge, Monkman found an ally willing to help out. They also found a label: Weeks passed on the record to fellow shoegaze enthusiast Trevor Larocque at Paper Bag Records, who offered to give Zoon a home.
While there is a healthy population of nu-gazers creating beautiful noise all over the world, Zoon’s debut stands out from all the others. Bleached Wavves is notable not just for its breathtakingly inimitable sounds and giving birth to a newfangled subgenre (see “moccasin-gaze”), but also for its modest, resourceful creation, the sign of a true sonic genius-in-the-making.