Thursday, 3 October 2013

REVIEW: Zoo Zero - 'Zoo Zero' (Crest Cont. Recordings)

Terms like "drone rock" and avant garde can make some think of boring, tuneless noise with no rhythm or structure. On the contrary, London four piece Zoo Zero are sharp, energetic and exciting while also capable of tripping into weirder, more cosmic places. Their sense of melody and how they utilise it throughout these tracks is what makes them stand out from the rest. 

“I guess we’re interested in music where noise and weirdness clashes with melody,” says singer/guitarist Tom Pinnock. “It’s way too easy to make some avant-garde, instrumental record – it’s harder to combine the unexpected with actual songs.” They accomplish this mission with a fat-free collection of songs that set stimulating punk energy, post-rock dynamics and droning noise to well crafted, ear-catching tunes, driving rhythms and spacey freak outs. As equally inspired by the likes of XTC and Wire as it is by Sonic Youth and Can, it's complex when it needs to be, without the tiniest hint of pretentiousness. 

The awesome 'Fraktion' confirms their arrival by whipping up a storm, as an accelerating motorik beat brings an element of krautrock into the picture, and the tense vocals highlight a somewhat manic quality. The guitars are also key elements; one second they're ringing out harmoniously, the next they're urgently tearing into furious riffs, and by the end they're growling, squealing and crackling in amongst a howl of feedback. The propulsive bass pounds away at a single note for long periods of time, making for a greater impact when it lifts off for the infectious instrumental hook. One of the best songs of 2013 without a doubt. Accessible tunecrafting pulled through an odd time signature, and swarming with Magazine-esque guitars, the solid 'Moon Communiqué' is where post-punk joins forces with shoegaze, presenting a textured sound made up of stripped down basics. The raw and invigorating 'Show Me Your Flag' rips through more effortless signature changes, machine gun drum fills and superb guitar arrangements as instruments compliment each other brilliantly and effects pedals are put to great use.


Instrumental passages are sometimes stretched, yet not a second is wasted, as demonstrated on the downbeat atmospherics of 'Double Cross', where the intensity grows with each second. There's an unsettling edge on pretty much everything here, as well as an ever-present buzz of excitement. "Psychedelic" isn't the right word, the mood is heavier and the sound is grittier, stripped back to guitar, bass and drums, while the reverb that most psych-rock influenced groups overuse is featured only when necessary, mainly on the vocals and when it's required on the guitars. The trailblazing six string assault of 'Stationed' approaches a "post hardcore" sound from an inventive angle, and is followed by the brief throbbing glow of white noise that is 'Dnalsi'. Afterwards, 'Onyx' is like some sort of prog-grunge, sometimes reminiscent of late period Blur in terms of the jagged Coxon-like guitar antics, playful yet noisy. Like the rest of the album, it's irresistible and intriguing. The melodic shoegaze finale of 'Spinning Pretty' is another moment that certainly couldn't be accused of not going anywhere.

An enjoyable 32 minutes absolutely fly by, and its fat-free length means you will often want to press the play button again after it's finished. It's too unusual to be able to memorise after one or two listens, but brilliantly intriguing enough to make you want to give it plenty more of your listening time. A fine debut from a truly exciting new band. 8.6/10





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