Not Exactly Music to Sleep By

ZsXe (Northern Spy, 2015)

zs-xeDuring the 18-minute “XE,” the quasi-title track of Zs‘ most recent album, I found myself thinking about how meditative it was.

Meditative in a tense, loud way, that is, if there is such a thing. You can trance out to the repetitious clackety-clack that dominates the early part of the track. Maybe less so when the menacing guitar riff takes over, accompanied by Sam Hillmer’s screaming sax.

A similar effect takes over “Corps,” which has more of a crisp EDM feel. The repetitious loop and street-corner drumming make a good backdrop, first for wild sax spasms and later for calmer, springy sounds that again make me think “meditative.”

Do you like that assessment? Well, it’s all blown to hell if you listen to the album in proper sequence. “The Future of Royalty” is a blast of an opener, coming at you in rhythmic pulses of sound with a mildly abrasive edge — and then, abruptly, it’s over.

That’s followed by the unrestful haze of “Wolf Government,” which doesn’t have to be played loud to convey a sense of continual noise and mad scribbling.

The real point is that I’ve seen Zs mentioned peripherally for years, but I’ve only now started sampling the trio’s blend of noise, rhythm, and electronics. I’m liking it.