Zs - Karate Bump (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Karate Bump (2005)


While this may be a very unfair perception, I'll admit, when I hear the word saxophone, I think Kenny G. I'm sure that's not the connotation that incredibly talented saxophonists like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker want associated with them, but that's what I think. Well, New York's own Zs are attempting to push the bounds of instrumental music, with the help of two drummers, two saxophonists, and two guitarists. Take notes, Kenny, you goofy bastard.

Zs are obviously a very talented bunch, and their quirky but complicated song structures, if you can call them that, are complicated to say the least. For music like this to even work in the slightest, these musicians have to be in synch for the entire length of the songs. As much a jazz ensemble as a prog band, Zs fuse their instruments flawlessly with each other. There may be some moments on this album that make the listener scratch their head, but a close listen will tell you just how complicated what they're doing actually is. All the complexity in the world however, doesn't necessarily make for interesting songs. But that's the catch: These songs are interesting. Rising from just a pitter-patter of the drums to rhythmic but subtle guitar parts, to the starts and stops of the saxophone playing, it all fits.

Minimalist it might be considered, but every one of these musicians knows how to get the best out of their instrument and fuse it cohesively with his fellow band members. "Bump" leads off the EP, starting with an almost tribal-sounding rhythm, and short guitar parts that quickly move up the scales. The song continues with a very tight knit rhythm section, and bits and pieces of saxophone integration. The speed and volume increase towards the end until the saxophones make their next appearance, though on the next track is where they really come into their own. "Karate" is that track, and it seems the saxophones are battling back and forth for the entire length of the song. It's an interesting dynamic, as there's little percussion, guitar or anything else to be found amidst the saxophone work.

The last track isn't titled, and showcases Zs' minimalist leanings more than anything else, with the same recycled, repetitious beat for the entire four minutes of the song, sounding more like a weak siren than actual music. This doesn't ruin the EP by any means, but it definitely does hinder what was a great flow until that point. In any right, this was an ambitious, and interesting effort to say the least. On a whole it was a bit short, and more could have been done with the final track, but a good listen all around.