Plain and simple, this is freak music, but it's not necessarily free: Though Zs and Guardian Alien move with the instrumental dexterity and fluidity of various improvisational ensembles and jam bands, both groups are tightly coiled and carefully created creatures. Sure, their music provides an opportunity for experiential freedom, where listeners might get lost in the wallop of Zs' repeating and bludgeoning riffs and loops or Guardian Alien's wall-to-wall fabrics of rhythm and texture. But the bands themselves are slaves to these complicated machinations, which pair extreme technicality to even more extreme bravado and imagination. These bands make music that feels like drugs, but these are high-grade pharmaceuticals, chemistry unaltered by false practitioners and uncut with additives.
Zs are something of a jazz band, having emerged in sextet form a decade ago, a period documented on a great four-disc retrospective set issued last year. Now in their third lineup, Zs are a trio, with founder and saxophonist Sam Hillmer joined by guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox. This iteration is a relatively unknown quantity, though Fox shouldn't be: The formerly compulsive catalyst behind black metal band Liturgy, his drumming also leads Guardian Alien, a band that's equally fond of strange and playful sound environments and great paroxysms of abrasion, acceleration and triumph.
It's OK if you need to bow out of this one a bit early: Either band alone is a strong dose, but united, you best take care not to trip and fall. —Grayson Currin