20 Best Avant Albums of 2015

The year's best in noise, out-jazz, contemporary classical, ambient, drone and more

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Zs, 'Xe'
20
3/20

3. Zs, 'Xe'

Brooklyn's tireless honk-grinders Zs have always sounded like the place where horrific skronk meets graph paper. However they've loosened up somewhat for their first album as a trio. This is underground rock playing at its most virtuosic and free enough to paint itself in an electroacoustic funhouse mirror. Patrick Higgins seems intent on getting every "wrong" sound out his electric guitar, painting in dry percussive tones, bursts of spasmodic Sightings electricity, jolts of aching plug-in or even some brief Buckethead cartoon shredding. Drummer Greg Fox is downright gymnastic, playing jazz on the Discordance Axis, hitting rubbery double strokes until his kit sounds like the Harlem Globetrotters warming up dribbles. Saxophonist Sam Hillmer distends and reverses himself into wet, expressive flapping and truly shines on the title track: Like James Chance asking his band to hit him 11 times, Hillmer soars as a clicky-clacky 6/8 meditation explodes into jazz-thrash outbursts.

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