Zorch – Zzoorrcchh review


One of the things that I always love about listening to the Jimi Hendrix Experience (which, admittedly, hasn’t happened in a little while) is the controlled chaos going on in my headphones. The chaos part consists of Hendrix’s otherworldly guitar parts, as well as Mitch Mitchell’s manic drumming. But the control comes from Noel Redding’s bass lines. They are the glue that grounds that trio in the same atmosphere as ours; without them, the Experience would have floated off into space and left us all behind.

Zorch is also controlled chaos, but the grounding effect for them is Zac Traeger’s left hand. At least figuratively. Trager and drummer Shmu are apt to both go sailing off into an anarchic cacophony, and it’s only thanks to the synthesized bass lines that the rest of us are able to ground ourselves amidst the chaos.

I first fell in love with Zorch listening to their 2010 demo of “Zut Alors,” which is thankfully included on their debut full-length, Zzoorrcchh, released last month. They have re-recorded the song with a fuller drum sound and some cool augmenting effects, but the song remains remarkably intact. As it winds along, in its first three and a half minutes of near-total-instrumental glory, Traeger and Shmu explode all over the track in a million directions.

Much of the second half of the record moves along these lines. From the opening moments of “Inopportune Sailing,” it’s clear that the listener is going to have to hang on for dear life. “Cosmic Gloss” is a ten-minute long jam that covers a whole hell of a lot of ground – including both moments of peace and moments of insanity. It’s clear that these guys love making noise and they are able to provide great outlets for that.

What most impresses me about Zzoorrcchh, though, is that the first half of the record contains songs where the duo clearly subsumed their chaotic tendencies in favor of the song’s integrity. “We All Die Young” is a manic celebration of youth that threatens to break apart at any second, but never does. The group delivers multiple memorable hooks across the song, culminating in a chorus that sounds like an electronic version of the Japandroids. The song stays engaging over its four and a half minutes, but through intelligent and daring songwriting rather than because of the sheer will of the charismatic musicians involved.

“This is the Way It Goes” is another great example of the evolution of Zorch’s musical ideas, and results in another memorable track. Even the interludes – like the fantastic “Its Kind of a Deal Where…” – both stand alone nicely and further cohere the overall aesthetic of the record.

I first saw Zorch live in the back of the now-defunct Beauty Bar during SXSW 2011, and it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve been to. They took chances in their live show and eagerly engaged their audience in inventive ways. Fortunately, they continue to take that same approach to their songwriting, and have crafted an album that pushes both the listener and themselves. Zzoorrcchh has revealed new parts of itself to me on every listen, and I imagine it will continue to do that for a long time.

– Carter Delloro