New York avant noise/rock group Zs haven’t really struck me yet on their own terms, but they’ve put together a mighty impressive remix collection. Indie culture blog BrooklynVegan have helpfully added some free-download tracks as well as some more info about the release, though if you want the remixes by heavy hitters like JG Thirlwell and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, you’ll have to grab it from somewhere like Amazon. My immediate favourite is the Acres remix by Gabe Andruzzi.
The overall impression is of hypnotic minimalist noise – whether it’s the Zs’ own rhythmic cacophony, or of the aforementioned Rapture-man’s zoned-out traditional-style 4am nightclub piece. Zs generally sound like Battles without the pop or if Buke and Gass fired the one that sounds like Tanya Donnelly and just banged about on empty milk bottles foregoing any sense of tunes, songs or sanity. I promise it’s not actually as bad as it sounds. It’s more like a piece of traditional Brazilian drum music I have lying around somewhere, as covered by a stoned New York busker.
The MP3 download proper – i.e. the one you buy from Amazon – has a different tracklisting than the vinyl cut, and the BrooklynVegan tracks don’t seem to fully match what’s on the official release so do grab them. For a start, Gentlemen Amateur is just f***ing brutal. The Zebrablood remix of Diamond Terrifier reminds me variously of times when I’ve either been in a club surrounded by people with dreadlocks or had my own dreadlocks (or both). It’s impossible to hear it and feel sober. Dim memories of balloons. What the hell was the name of that club? The traces of sax are just unsettling enough to make me thank God I was never into acid. There’s just enough going on – just enough variety and intrigue, despite its extreme repetitiveness – to remain interesting, which is handy, since it’s 12 minutes long.
The Zs vs Cex take on Arches is pretty sweet, though – all bass-wobbling bleeps and difficult percussion. It puts me in mind of Download’s finer moments, though it has vastly better structure – especially the build towards the end. The JG Thirlwell entry is the most unexpected since it doesn’t really seem to fit with the others. It’s like a grungier take on his Venture Bros score, its discordant riffs making me think of what would happen if his friends the Yeah Yeah Yeahs decided to cover his music. It is a pleasing change after all that repetition. An interval from a one-note performance, if you will.
The Andruzzi remix of Acres stands out without standing out – it takes its cues from the other tracks in providing the sort of remix that you think of when you think of remixes, but in a way that is simplistic and ear-friendly. It has some great sub-bass, and it’s a breath of fresh air after the difficulty of some of the other tracks. Like minimalism is supposed to do, it reminds me of just how much you can achieve with very little.