Hypnagogue Review: Zoid – Selected Zoidworks 05-12

It’s a tricky blend to pull off, this skidding collision of electronica and jazz, but in the hands of Zoid, it tends to work.

I’m not sure how easy it will be for some listeners to get into and stay with the churning, jazz-informed, bass-synth-driven electronica on Zoid’s Selected Zoidworks 05-12. My first few listens were a little on the off-putting side, trying to catch hold of Daniel Jacobson’s unlikely tempos and unnatural musical angles as I was being repeatedly punched by the low-end force of a 303 synth. And, to be honest, I can’t say I’ve entirely invested in it. But I’ve kept going back to it. It’s like standing back and watching an experiment you’re not sure you comfortable with, but in which the results keep you watching more than they drive you out of the lab. Jacobson lures you in with the reasonably accessible “Aerosoul,” where a smooth jazz guitar vies for your attention with an in-and-out tide of whooshing electronic sound. The contrast is excellent, and it takes a lot of potency from its deceptively simple appearance.

Then things get trickier. “Phorph” dials down the obvious jazz influence and puts an almost-minimal rhythm against very quiet synth chords. The pulsing overtones read very retro, and the underlay is content to mind its business back there. The track takes on a slightly hypnotic quality through a repetition some may find grating. “Acid Leaves” tears up the scene with on-fire glitch snaps highlighting Jacobson’s use of non-standard–which is to say, non-electronic music-standard–time signatures. Along with mentor Bruce Morley, he manages to slide a funky guitar take of the standard “Autumn Leaves” into this semi-tamed tangle.

This is one of the things that kept me checking out Zoidworks–the well-practiced pairing of the “norm” with the twisted and how well Jacobson, who is jazz-trained, makes it fit into a whole. But it does take some time to wrap your head around it. Try diving into “Obelisk,” another pairing of textbook jazz guitar playing underneath a rush of chittering, rapid-fire microsounds. Or submit to the grinding, over-modulated bass sounds powering “Cember” before a chipset-style melody creeps innocuously into the mix. A funky drum riff in the back makes it catchy even as it’s pounding away at your head. Drums take the forefront in “jwrong,” a twist of complex signatures snapping out over slow-paced bass. Sighs of sound and more of the guitar come in to find their own place in it.

Selected Zoidworks 05-12 won’t sit well with everyone. It takes some work and some patience, but through repeated sessions the method behind Jacobson’s sometimes overwhelming madness becomes clearer. It’s a tricky blend to pull off, this skidding collision of electronica and jazz, but in the hands of Zoid, it tends to work.

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