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Zs

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The tag "brutal prog" dropped out of style around the same time as retro-electro legwarmers, but pay no mind. It has always evoked, perfectly, the jams busted by such indie jazzbos as the Flying Luttenbachers, Hella, and, Orthrelm -- intense virtuosos filtering their well-educated chops through grating skronk, hardcore aggression, mind-bending time changes, and extreme metal's need to incessantly challenge its listeners.

This brings us to Zs, a quartet long considered practitioners of brutal proggery. Often dressed in black, sitting in a circle and concentrating on sheet music, Zs totally project a chamber music vibe while commanding their axe, sax, drums, and keys to stutter through epileptic fits of punked-out jazz. But unlike their peers -- who do rock viscerally yet primarily for the mind -- Zs engineer some pointillist groove into their stark, almost austere compositions. Obviously, the pinprick precision of electronic dance music exerts an oh-so-subtle influence on the group (just like fellow New Yorkers Gang Gang Dance and Black Dice). And although no one's ever gonna mistake 'em for Parliament, what Zs have accomplished is really quite unique. Here in America, you see, the dance floor and high-minded sonic freakery mix about as well as oil and water.

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