Review by Brad Walseth
The dictionary defines the word "zing" as "energy, vitality, animation or zest" and also "to move or proceed with speed or vitality; zip." Slang usage of the word is to make a witty comeback: to "zing" somebody with a clever and cutting retort. Zing also seems to mean something in the world of science and mathematics, although mysteriously (perhaps appropriately), I was unable to find an exact definition of this usage (it seems to refer to being given a kick in the something or other of energy). Finally, it may be interesting to know (or not) that the French poet Alcanter de Brahm (I swear I do not make this up) proposed a punctuation mark that looked something like a backwards question mark and that would be used to mark "irony." The irony mark (also called a snark) has never caught on with the literary world, but the intriguing musical collective, Zing! lives up to their name, and should succeed considerably better than the snark with their appealing blend of jazz, rock, electronica and more, as showcased on their debut recording on Chicago's own Eyes and Ears Records label, Magnetic Flux.
Zing is a powerful combo featuring a rhythm section of Matthew Golombisky on electric bass and Quin Kirchner on drums. Both are busy artists, working with numerous other cutting-edge contingents in Chicago. Talented guitarist Dave Miller is making himself known as an innovative player in the scene, and of course Caroline (alto saxophone) and James Davis (trumpet) are well known to Chicagoans for their work with the James Davis Quartet, among other groups. Most band members are also credited with "effects," and this added dimension creates a unique and appealing sonic atmosphere.
The recording opens with a bang (or zing) and the clever "Boo Boo Bah Bah," which combines a Carribbean rhythm (I think), intertwined and unison jazz horn lines, noisy bursts of heavily effected guitar (again I think) and ferocious drumming into the sound of something new, yet still musical and rather catchy. It's as though a lunar explorer from Earth landed on a beach on some alien world with its enclosed package of musical samples melted together during the descent, warped it's true, but still clearly recognizable as music.
"Ethos" takes a memorable theme played on the guitar, moves into chaos and emerges into a powerfully funky odd-time signature grove where Caroline cuts loose on some killer effected saxophone. James muted (once more I think could be effects) trumpet is nasty good. Suddenly the horns are in the present and clean, with the Davises' signature interplay taking us out. Astonishing.
Perhaps my favorite (at the moment anyway) composition follows. "Social Democratic Metal Workers Union" starts with well-played straight-ahead horns and suddenly falls into broken pieces before a sheet metal guitar solo. Bassist Golombisky and drummer Kirchner form a formidable tandem, anchoring these quickly mutating pieces while aggressively propelling them forward. Caroline again plays a highly inventive solo here, while the music veers from industrial mayhem to a modernistic ride on a Jetson's moving sidewalk in a heartbeat.
Lest you think these musicians as fit only for the asylum, the gorgeous "Five and Six" comes along and awakens you to the collective's sense of space and melody, as well as their understanding of the use of electric sounds to create beauty. "Bad Out" is another favorite that takes unusual rhythms, starts and stops, random twittering and bursts and somehow twists them into an impressive soaring horn theme, again with searing guitar work. James plays a wonderful trumpet solo here and proves that the contrast between straight ahead and experimental can be worthy of exploration.
The rest of the album charts a similar distinct path, with "String" a disembodied blues of sorts, featuring Kirchner's array of cymbals and rocking drum kit; "As Play" a strangely effective space out over a drum pulse; "Cellular 2" 10:59 of everything including the kitchen sync; and finally the incredible "Incongruent" ending the album proper. This piece is a grooving shifting time signature piece with great horn breaks that will make your ears smile. But also don't miss the untitled hidden track at the end of the disc for more good dirty fun. For a potent and enjoyable kick in the behind, and something you'll like even better than a snark, you need to get yourself a copy of Zing's Magnetic Flux, or catch them live or, best of all of course, both.