Tiago Morelli, deputy editor of FB, introduced the new album by Spanish world-math act ZA! as if “Battles and Hella were put through a meat grinder together”. With a few xylophones thrown in for good measure.
Pachinko Plex is not your average math rock album – it drops the typical guitar-bass-drums configuration for a kaleidoscope of vocal chants, electronic blurts and mesmerising mallet percussion. Both the members of ZA! spent time teaching in Mozambique, where the mbila, a kind of traditional xylophone, is used in ensembles of up to 25 players. ZA! do not have 25 players, but they certainly sound like it on many of these tracks.
The band veers from organic instrumentation stacked into hypnotic loops (‘Ochate Kiè’) to thumping, pitch-shifted electronic glitchfests (‘Test d’Estrès’), mathy lounge jazz (‘Solo Chezz’) and everywhere in between. But whatever strange niche they’re exploring, ZA! never seem to run out of exciting musical palettes, crammed into spiralling, polyrhythmic soundscapes.
If Pachinko Plex is the kind of thing that happens when bands hang up the guitars for an album, more should try it.