Track-by-Track: Cerca – Khalum Zilam
Track-by-Track: Cerca – Khalum Zilam

Track-by-Track: Cerca – Khalum Zilam

Cerca Khalum Zilam

The solo project of Brooklyn-based Darren Hoyt forges a varied modern soundscape out of meditative drones and dense textures. – Spectrum Culture

Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Darren Hoyt aka Cerca, New York musician whose music combines string instruments, melodicas, tape loops and street sounds from around the world.

More TBTs in our archives.

Khalum Zilam was written last summer in the kitchen studio across very many late nights. One morning I woke up from a dream where an anthropomorph greeted another: “khalum zilam.” Words in a language from a country not on the map, some place I’d like to be.

St. Agnes and the Lamb

This song came together in a funny way. I was in Italy a couple summers ago and saw a painting of Agnes the Roman martyr. Coincidentally I’ve lived up the street from the Saint Agnes Church in Brooklyn for years, but never actually went inside until I came back from Italy and got curious. My neighborhood is Sicilian and they treat that particular church seriously.

The good and bad thing about Saint Agnes is they ring their bells on the hour throughout the day which can be beautiful but it interrupts the recording process a lot. So for this song I just embraced it and recorded the bells which became the intro for the album.

Khalum Zilam

When I listen back to this one I think it’s probably borrowing from a lot of fingerpicking and modes I’ve absorbed over the years, raga, Eastern European folk, stuff from living in Virginia. I’m not really sure.

“Khalum Zilam” is a nonsense phrase I heard in a dream and wrote down to figure out the spelling. I made it the title song because it sounds like it would be from a particular place or culture, but it’s imaginary. When I started compiling more songs for this album, I kept in mind that imaginary sense of place.


Like a lot of these songs, this was written at about 3:00am according to the timestamp and it’s a fuzzy memory. It’s basically a bass ukulele loop and some improvised melodica and morin khuur on top. For some reason I’d been thinking about this spooky, run-down place where I grew up called the Whispering Pines Motel which inspired the title. I’ve always been a big Morricone fan so maybe some of that leaked in too? A lot of times these clashing concepts don’t amount to anything for me, but I like how this one turned out.

Stop Being Weird

Another one that began in Italy. I’d always wanted to see the Pompeii ruins so I walked around for a couple hours before getting to the amphitheater. The sun was going down and the colosseum looked incredible. I was heading out and tucked my head into the exit tunnel and realized it was one big interactive exhibit about the Pink Floyd “Live at Pompeii” movie. That part was unexpected. I still love that movie, though.

The exit opened up into a shady little park and I had my tape machine so I started recording some sounds. An American woman and her two daughters were standing nearby and the girls started teasing each other so I got that and looped it in different ways when I got back to New York. The recording doesn’t mean much by itself, but it’s a funny memory of that trip.


Probably the most intense sounds on the record. I’ve been trying to incorporate the Mongolian fiddle into songs like this as a staccato kind of thing because I don’t play it very well otherwise. It started that way and I layered more strings until it got really dense and pulsing in the middle. There’s eventually a snare and a gigantic mega bell ride cymbal in there. In some ways I wish I had just done the drone for 7-8 minutes and left it at that, but somehow it mutated into that final section where things fall away and resolve.

A Spoke in the Miracle Wheel

I had a song called Bulls Reprise on a previous album with these overlapping single-note melodica tracks that formed a chord. So this is kind of the reprise to the reprise. Part of it is also built on a tape loop that starts to go out of sync toward the end and the speed of the delays starts to fall apart. This one starts winding down the intensity of the album as a segway.

A Happy Return

More sounds and some chatter taped around Italy. If the album has a sense of place, this is the part where you’re safe inside at the end of a day, meeting friendly strangers. The sounds of this track are more comforting than some of the previous dissonant stuff, so it felt like a good choice to end on.


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