zZz - Sound Of zZz (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Sound Of zZz (2005)


Apparently there's some discretion as to just what the sound of zZz is. Is it the sound of my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Dutter, endlessly rambling on and on about the many facets of Julius Caesar's assassination? Or is it the combination of drums, vocals, and an organ emanating from the band zZz's latest record, the aptly titled Sound Of zZz? Could be either, really, but since I can't imagine anyone wants to read about my 10th grade English teacher, then it's the album I'll discuss.

I've never been one to mind the inclusion of an organ when sparsely distributed through an album, but Sound Of Zzz doesn't quite fit that bill. The organ has the power to sound incredibly eerie, and suspenseful, but the sounds of the organ on this album belong at the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley field while the crowd sings "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." The unfortunate nature of the music, however, relegates the fun sound of that organ to existing beneath waves of static that render drummer and vocalist Bjorn Ottenheim's voice virtually inaudible. The dark grooves don't lend themselves well to this type of music, as the lo-fi fuzz puts a blanket over everything all at once. Songs such as "Lucy" offer a much more downplayed, down-tempo, vocal-driven effort where the static doesn't prevent you from actually paying attention.

There's other distractions on this album, though, that border on the completely unnecessary. "Godspeed" presents an interesting dynamic, starting off with an obnoxious and redundant display of organ, with what sounds like lasers shooting off in the background, until finally mellowing out, featuring only Ottenheim's vocals and sporadic, and subtle drum work. This song perfectly shows what's so frustrating about the disc: There's no uniformity to any of it, just a scattered collection of drumming, organ, and static.

The one highlight of this album for me is Ottenheim's low, Johnny Cash-like baritone delivery. The way it contradicts the jaunty, bouncy organ is an area of interest that nothing else really ever lives up to. This album is full of forgettable moments.

The downfall of a solid concept could be attributed to a lot of things here. The overly gratuitous usage of static, the repetition, or the lack of any sort of uniformity that could have propelled the disc. The lounge jazz feel of "Soul" coupled with the guitar freakout at the end is proof the duo could extract some strong concepts and arrangements, but for the most part, they make the choice not to. This is a talented duo, no questions, but this album is not the outlet for their talents they could showcase.