Next week, muscular avant jazz champions Zs will release their long awaited album Xe, the first true followup to 2010’s monumental freakout New Slaves. I was already excited about the news. Now that I’ve heard the title track, I’m losing my patience.
Always evolving, never repeating, Zs are set to render us all dumbstruck again:
While I haven’t written much about Zs, they are in fact my favorite jazz project working today. I’ve shared a pair of posts about bandleader Sam Hillmer’s solo project a couple years back, and mentioned the group on my Best Of The Rest Of 2010 post. My words book-ending that list turned prophetic: “…any one of these albums may end up defining the year as much as the ‘true’ list.” In the case of New Slaves, that sentence couldn’t be any truer.
The double LP set is a monster, crossing cavernous metal and noise rock with free jazz of the highest order. The title track is, to my ears, a love letter to John Coltrane’s divisive masterpiece, Ascension. As the months of 2011 wore on, I found myself returning again and again to the album, eventually regarding it with a sense of awe for powerfully (and permanently) shifting my tastes more than than anything I’d mentioned on the official Best Of The Year list.
Now, we have Xe dropping on January 27th, 2015. Judging by the initial nuanced throb of the title track, this looks to be perhaps less outwardly punishing than the last album. However, when the percussion starts tumbling over itself, and the guitar flares out of its surf metal loop, the tune erupts for the final third, with Hillmer soloing all over the place in a tight frenzy. Instead of a total wildfire, perhaps we’ll get a controlled burn with this new release.