ZILLA : : ZILLA (Zilla Music '05)

The liner notes on Zilla's new album put it best: "100% live. 100% improvised." Best described as "dance music from another realm," String Cheese Incident drummer Michael Travis and friends are the latest addition to the "jamtronica" scene. This self-titled release features material culled from two live performances: 12/30/04 at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City and 1/20/05 at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO.

At first blush, the only knock on "Zilla" is that it may be a touch repetitive – a common problem even among the likes of Sound Tribe Sector 9, The New Deal, and Particle. However, multiple listens unveil multiple sonic layers. "Dust Collection" is essential listening to hear world champion hammered dulcimer player Jamie Janover go off in a major way. Aaron Holstein drops a resonating, distinct bass line on the 70's disco funk of "Weasel Town." Holstein even shows off his talent on guitar with some downright beautiful playing on "Daisy Chain" and the decisively more jazz oriented "Above Treeline," which also features some soulful scatting to the groovy R&B vibe.

The highly danceable electronica theme dominates though. Steve Vadaic washes high pitch yet tranquil keyboard waves upon the shores of "Puddletooth." Vadaic also contributes a spacey, siren-like wail to the drum and bass on the hoppin' "Playa Patrol." We even get a surprise visit from the newest SCI family member as Jason Hann adds percussion to the tribal trance of "Gription."

Yet Travis is definitely the cornerstone of this Boulder-based foursome and clearly establishes himself as one of the most versatile, talented drummers/percussionists on the planet (and some of his other dimensions as well). Travis considers himself and his Zilla band mates "spontaneous compositionalists." It is exactly this unscripted nature of the tunes that gives "Zilla" its appeal. Let me put it to ya' this way - bands could practice for their entire career and not make music this imaginative, inspired, groovy, and "far out." One should expect nothing less from a Travis brainchild.

John Smrtic
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 5/21/05]

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