Zs’ ‘Xe’

Zs’ ‘Xe’

Adriana SaboWednesday,4 February 2015

No matter how open-minded you think you are, or how much different music you have heard, you are never completely ready for what Zs has to offer. The art of Zs is quite difficult to describe, as they mix and mash many different genres and influences, taking the elements they like and re-working them into something of their own. They are described as Avant-rock, no-wave, brutal-prog, and post-minimalist, yet none of these labels seems to do right by their music, even though each one is describing some aspect of what Zs do. There also seems to be a strong connection to free jazz–mainly due to the presence of  tenor sax–despite the fact that this music is mostly not improvised (but then again, whether free jazz and improvisation are actually “free” is also debatable), and a distinct fascination with the ritual use of music.

Zs is, namely, a trio from Brooklyn, NY. They played as a trio, sextet, as well as a quartet, but are now back to three members: Sam Hillmer (tenor sax), Patrick Higgins (guitar, electronics), and Greg Fox (percussion), Hillmer being the only one from the original line-up. In thier own words, “Zs is primarily concerned with making music that challenges the physical and mental limitations of both performer and listener. Manipulating extended technique, unique instrumental synthesis, and near telepathic communication, Zs aims to create works that envelop the listener and unfold sonically over time, evoking unspoken past, present, and future rites and ritual.” Hence, the connection with minimalists, such as Steve Reich, for example, is more then obvious. Their music is comprised out of layers, each one made out of repetitive figures and each one seemingly autonomous from the others, being manipulated so that the ritual-like atmosphere is achieved. Zs only recently released their first full-length alum, titled Xe, a 42-minute experiment in perceptive powers of listeners.

“Xe,” the title track off of Xe can be viewed as something of a manifest. A track that lasts for more than 18 minutes will put you in a trance, only if you let yourself be taken. Percussions introduce an ostinato figure that doesn’t ever let up. The meter changes from time to time, making sudden cuts to the music flow, only to go back to the “mantric” state of repetition. This layer is enriched by the electronics and the sax that play repetitive figures of their own. And it goes on and on. No rest for the weary. On the other hand, “Corps,” for instance, has a different outlook on the concept of repetitiveness. This time, electronics bare the main weight of repetitiveness, doubled by the never-ending drumming of the percussion. While Higgins and Fox are busy repeating themselves, Hillmer is playing some song notes and even introduces note-successions that can be called melodies. All is perfectly shaped into one great big flow, interrupted only now and then, precisely at the moment when you start feeling like you can’t take it any more.

Xe is, I must say, a real treat and a great example of the power that sound can have over your mind. While you listen, just relax and let your brain be taken for a ride. You will feel refreshed afterwards.

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Hat Tips:

Facebook, Twitter, Patrick Higgins Music, SoundCloud, Image Credit: Flickr

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