Private Shangri-La Review by Rivertree @ Progarchives.com
Knowing ... what?
Due to their ambitious approach I once was pleased with the 2008 'Pank' album, though lost connection after that for what reason ever. Just right now in August 2015 the Chicago based band have a new album ready that shows them reduced to a trio - yet for the first time missing former keyboardist and saxophone player Marcus Padgett. Okay, where does the new ZIP TANG 2.0 expedition take us now? Hah! Easily to imagine really, when you're going to consider the album title. So much for the obvious knowing, or what?
Eleven songs are offered, provided with a lot of twists and turns. They are extending a quite unpredictable workout - yes, that stays even after several listening sessions. So I had to rewrite this a few times, since I occasionally faced problems to pin down the album for some mysterious reason. In any case they don't take it too seriously overall, well, this is not lacking of subtle humour ... just taking the album cover into account for example. Don't have the lyrics at hand, but in between I can hear them searching for the Plastic Jesus, oh yeah.
So let me pick Big Crunch to start with - maybe ambiguous, maybe freaky - musically the opposite of a crisis because my favourite excerpt - though possibly has a cosmological meaning too. There's certainly a psychedelic flavour to state on this occasion. Surprisingly I could detect a few references to other bands here at the very start - placed with intent or not - like Fates Warning's 'Still Remains' or 'Zoombiance' by Rinse, Repeat. And other diffuse reminders which I can't name until now. Food for thought, still. On top of it this just is part of a declared song couple.
Which means the acoustic guitar driven Lines comes prior. An excerpt provided with nice polyphonic vocals and yep ... inviting to sing along. You might sense it in the meanwhile - this album instantly won't be that accessible, like a pop oriented album would come along of course. A jazzy component takes a backseat (no sax, lesser keys) to the benefit of a more hard & heavy rocking attitude. It's Perry Merritt who has an important impact more than ever, due to the lead vocal and keyboard/synthesizer task, plus the whole guitar dominance, the latter often double- or even multi-tracked (rhythm and solo), also taking the acoustic part into account.
Rick Wolfe (punchy bass) and Fred Faller (lively drums) are suitable companions moreover, and this altogether - based on many overdubs - will guarantee a really lush and vibrant sound. Not a 'live in the studio' result with other words, I'm quite sure concerning the mix it took a bunch of hours to come to a final solution. Is it my pure imagination, or are they provoking a lot of references and relations? Some more examples needed? When the Cigarette Burns Perry counters with siren alike guitar. And they will offer us the opportunity to Delete The Hole via head banging. Or alternatively, is there anybody out there to stop the Maniacal Calliope?
Bang! Brilliant! Their private Shangri-La is a well thought out curiosity, which needed some time getting used to. Based on my experiences gradually the wonderful melodic contours come to the fore more and more, weirdness turns into trickiness. Shortened to a three-piece affair ... so what, this does not imply limited opportunities quite naturally - no, not necessarily. They compensate this with virtuosity and creativeness, and last but not least they are definitely able to rrrrrock the house! 4.5 stars so far!
ROCKTIMES - CD-Review / Zip Tang – Das Reboot (English Translation)
July 20, 2013
Chicago-based Zip Tang have stayed true to themselves, at least as concerns their independence. "Das Reboot" is their 4th album, and the quartet is continuing to stay clear of record labels and contracts. This self-determination also lies at the root of their unconventional and partially obscurity-free music.
In my view, Zip Tang is the other progressive band whose freaky Frank Zappa references allows them to score points for their remarkable constancy. The twelve songs specified in the track list of "Das Reboot" vary from Zappaesk music to a parallel field remotely evoking Pink Floyd. Zip Tang not only features gorgeous layers of keyboards, but also different types of saxophones performed by Marcus Padgett. Originality is the keyword on this album.
Three of the four musicians employ their vocals remarkable effect. Adding to the exquisite lead vocals, the choirs help building dream castles of another kind. Even excursions into a cathedral are allowed, such as in middle section of "I'm Still Here". Brilliant! This interlude creates a vocal bridge between the dreamy, floating beginning, crunching rock featuring noisy guitar riffing and a massively arranged final section that threatens to rip the entire act from its moorings. Especially the guitars and the saxophone work out on a weighty level.
What happens in-between the opening track "Grain of Sand", featuring experimental approaches, and the above-mentioned final track "I'm Still Here" features numerous highlights. If you’re not familiar with Zip Tang, be warned that this album too delivers once again a ticket for a frantic roller coaster ride. And as is well known, once you’re in, there’s no going back during the ride, and during Zip Tang’s "Das Reboot", you will be taken through many unforgettable moments. But be warned... the quartet can be quite demanding on the listener. Open-mindedness is a basic assumption.
Seven and a half minutes is how long "Butterfly Tattoos" takes. And if you think this is going to be something dreamy, you’re wrong. There’s hardly time to breathe or calm down. The band also uses powerful dynamics and double leads to create violently rocking music. Using distorted vocals, Zip Tang serves "10,000 Nachos", featuring a naughty-sounding saxophone playing by Marcus Padgett. But rather than satiating you, ingesting this track will make you seek out a liquid capable of alleviating its musical heat. Hasta la vista! And here they go again, tickling our auditive tubes.
Zip Tang are unpredictable. "Das Reboot" is like a powerfully stretched bow, but these four artists never go so far as to stretch things beyond the breaking point. The band never seems to leave its own, ample universe. Apart from down-to-earth music, the listener is taken into worlds of sound whose existence one didn’t know of. On the whole, the band stays off beaten paths, walking a tightrope over a deep chasm. Don‘t ever look down! Zip Tang possess the equilibrium it takes to cross the abyss. Even after their 4th album, the band shows no faltering in fitness. "Das Reboot" is a melting pot. Stunning! We’d love to see them play in our country ... or at least experience through an equivalent sound medium.
Joachim 'Joe' Brookes
The North American band Zip Tang was founded in 2003 in Chicago, by Perry Merritt (guitar, vocals) and Rick Wolfe (bass, vocals). The line-up was completed with Fred Faller (drums) and Marcus Padgett (saxophones, keyboards, synthesizers and vocals). Under the name of "RPM", the band started out playing covers of "Steely Dan", "Santana", "The Allman Brothers", "Jeff Beck", and "Yes" - influences that are still present in their work. They changed the name for Zip Tang and released a debut album “Luminiferous Ether” (2007), which received excellent reviews from the specialized press.
The second album - “Pank” (2008) - was nominated for the “Just Plain Folks 2009 Awards” in the categories of “Best Prog Rock Album” and “Best Prog Songs” (with “Footprints” and “Katy”). A righteous nomination, indeed, for “Pank” rises above the level of excellence. It represents a step farther in the evolution of this talented quartet that must be reckoned for their high-quality musicianship. Although this album seems more “jammed” than the first work, the band is by no means retreating, but refining their style and originality.
The ever-changing rhythmic base is supported by drums that go from ethnical beats to Jazz and Experimental, and bass lines that may do strange mixtures of Heavy Metal, Jazz, Rock and Latino – remembering bands like "Frank Zappa", "King Crimson", "Traffic", "Steely Dan", "Yes", "Santana', "Return To Forever" and even "Primus". Guitars go from Jazz-Rock to Blues, including some heavier riffs, adding influences of "Cream", "Jeff Beck", "Allman Brothers", and "John Lee Hooker". Unusual passages of sax lead to inevitable comparisons with "Van der Graaf Generator", but genuine jazzy moods are also present in sophisticated passages, remembering the work of "Miles Davis" and even "Burt Bacharach". Different textures of keyboards cover the songs with a progressive air. Vocals by Marcus are mainly ironic, in the manner of "Zappa", or melancholic like "Pink Floyd".
“Pank” brings 11 tracks. The sound of inverted guitars and ethnical beats in the introduction of the opening track - “Footprints” - is a sign that Zip Tang is still warming up and great things are yet to come. In fact, many Pink Floydian melancholic vocals, psychedelic instrumental sections, and jazzy saxophones will be heard on tracks like “It’s in my Head“ and “One Last Beautiful Motion“ - the later brings a fantastic guitar solo – hovering, nostalgic and beautiful. One of the nominated songs - “Katy“ - is one of the best tracks. It is built over a heavy and tense bass line, ending on long passages of jazz and blues. The creative talent of "Robert Fripp" and the musical irreverence of "Frank Zappa" are ever present, celebrated on tracks like “Leaving Nothing“ and “Cicada Jam“ – both stuffed with experimental sounds and percussion, bringing that mysterious feeling of entering an exotic jungle. Zappa‘s irreverence is still present on the craziness of “Deitrich Crashed my Enzo“ and “You Call This Art?“, the later is trespassed by Hard Rock riffs and Blues solos – influence of "Jeff Back". Differing a bit from the rest of the album, “The Years“ is a kind of ballad that joins the acoustic guitars of "Allman Brothers" with the sax of "Van der Graaf". The remaining songs, “Pank“ and “Goodbye“, bring back the seventies in that jazzy-funky-Latin fashion of "Steely Dan", "Santana", and "Return to Forever", featuring many improvisations of bass, guitars, drums and sax. Particularly on “Goodbye”, the closing sax solo sounds like a farewell melody.
But please, Zip Tangers, don’t say goodbye – come back with a third! Zip Tang is highly recommended for lovers of Rock of the 70’s and fans of modern Progressive bands like "Flower Kings", "Neal Morse", "Spock’s Beard", "Black Bonzo", "Tiles" and so on…
(Comments by Marcelo Trotta - Progressive Rock Brazil E-zine)
Nowadays, the best expressions and attitudes of progressive rock are able to form eclectic mixtures, yet they mostly embrace independent striking values, being either classic, new-waved, drenched, alternative, powerful or sensible, underground or mainstreamed, artistically rooted or experimentally diluted. Up this kind of a scale, ZIP TANG, a four-piece band from Chicago, prefers to play something from the classic influences, the nice modern art and the bit of indispensable jam and "new music" - in a manner that, currently, gets optimistic praises, plus in a musically attractive empathy that can score, further on, more and more important progressive qualities.
The band is made of four musicians, all with both old-school and new-manner rock qualities. Marcus Padgett is vocalist and keyboardist, but most impressively he plays the sax. He mainly perfected, over years, a music of New-Age, Rock and Jazz wind-ups. Rick Wolfe, bassist and vocalist, played instead in a lot of bands, finding a good edge in hard rock. Perry Merritt is the third vocalist in ZIP TANG, but he essentially plays the guitar, under a style of moods and grips. Fred Faller is "only" a drummer, yet his bigger passions (culminating in soft Avant-Garde or pure Fusion) do reflect the essential precision.
Thanks to a powerful debut, called "Luminiferous Ether", which was heavily worked, produced and refined in 2006 and finally released in 2007, their music seems to approach "the irreverence of Frank ZAPPA with the majesty of KING CRIMSON and the vocal harmonies of YES". The band members also like to believe in the influences of artists like Steely DAN, PORCUPINE TREE, Kevin GILBERT or PHISH. The character of some pieces tend to be of an independent style and flash - thus, one or two such compositions work on a space rock tendency (or deep fantasy), PINK FLOYD being commonly referenced, others on fusion sound - and so. Finally, there is a clear sense of classic prog rock, since the band covers curiously, but strongly, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER's "Tarkus", as a bonus treat to the entire album.
The modern rock air of ZIP TANG is essentially fresh, interesting to hear and slippery as art. Their great jam reminds, occasionally, of pure rock and new art. The firm classic influences are nice and beloved, but also rapid, carving ZIP TANG as both original and alternative in progressive rock's deep stream.
:::Victor "Philip" Parau:::(Ricochet) - ProgArchives.com
Some band sent me a link to their CD on CD Baby and it's classified as alt/prog. I listen to a few samples and it sucks. Big surprise yeah? Let me remind you,… I'm a prog snob. I don't like neo-prog or prog-metal, so I'm certainly not going to like alt/prog. I don't even like alternative rock that doesn't have progressive pretensions. Well, now that this is established, I feel much better and I can go on now. For some reason I keep looking at other listings from alt/prog bands and I see this listing for a Chicago band called Zip Tang. That's an amusing name I think, and I click on their disc Luminiferous Ether. I check out the song titles and their lengths. Only nine tunes mostly about six minutes long, here's one that's ten minutes long and………aaahh! I see those six little letters. Take my glasses off and stick my nose real close to the monitor, yes, it does say "Tarkus." I start listening to a few samples and it's good, it's all good, not just "Tarkus," but all of it. Wasting no time, I send them a message, get the disc and… here we are.
I tend to fall head over heels in love with a band every now and then, and I also tend to go a bit far with the hyperbole and usually regret it later. I'm going to try to limit my hyperbolic ranting this time, but if anything I've heard recently deserves to be raved about, it's Zip Tang.
If anything, Zip Tang is a
fun band (and the lyrics are occasionally funny,
too) and that is something that is very unusual in
the music I listen to. In caps now……FUN! Zip Tang is
also cerebral enough to satisfy any real prog fan as
well. Their cover of "Tarkus" alone should
demonstrate that well enough. Think Red Hot Chili
Peppers and Ben Folds meets Echolyn, Izz, King
Crimson and Pink Floyd. Vocals are handled by
sax/keys player Marcus Padgett (whose voice sounds
to me like Echolyn's Ray Watson) with brief
appearances from bassist Rick Wolfe and guitarist
Perry Merritt. The songs are all group efforts and
the musicianship is top notch all throughout the
album. Next to Padgett's great sax playing and his
all too brief keyboard work, the real musical star
of Luminiferous Ether is drummer Fred
Faller who plays much like a cross between the Chili
Peppers Jack Irons and Dream Theater's Mike
Portnoy…. well, what Portnoy would sound like if he
could keep his ego under control and if he had any
taste (I must mock DT and Portnoy at every
opportunity). The liner notes say the disc was
recorded at ZT (Zip Tang?) Studios which is probably
one of the band members garage, yet it is the best
sounding self-released album I can ever remember
hearing. If they told me that this was recorded at
the Record Plant or Electric Ladyland studios with
Jack Douglas behind the board I would totally
believe it. Suffice it to say the sound is
incredibly good. The lyrics are clever and well
written and some show a healthy concern for food and
drink. If you (like me) spend a lot of time
listening to bands whose lyrics delve into karma,
life before, during and after death, ragging about
religion and exploring the various adventures of
Orpheous, Salmacis or Odysseus you might even find
them a refreshing change of pace.
Tom Karr - ProgressiveWorld.net
Zip Tang is yet another Chicago area band that is treading new ground. By fusing elements of vintage progressive ie:(King Crimson/Pink Floyd/Camel) with a hint of Frank Zappa's humor, perhaps a bit of the old Canterbury scene, as well as modern rock sounds giving them a hip and modern sound. They consist of a four piece, of bass, guitars, drums and a multi-musician that does saxes, keys and vocals. The band plays a variety of styles as indicated, and more with an attitude of edginess and fun. While the band features a strong musical backing, the songs are vocal based, yet the backdrop of instruments beckons to be heard. Much in the way Zappa's vocals were merely another addition to the instrumentations that were constructed.
The sax of Marcus Padgett plays a prominent role in the band, in a way the older progfans may remember hearing from Ian MaDonald of Crimson, or even with Mel Collins on his contributions to progressive music, and of course Dick Parry's contributions with Pink Floyd. So the sax doesn't flavor the music overtly in a jazzy way, but simply adds a unique voice to the music, making for some memorable moments. Perry Merritt is the bands' guitarist, he has a retro feel about his playing, squarely cut from the hard rock sounds from the golden era, he provides many of the bands moods, with hard rock leanings and melodic sensibilities, the band never strays too far from their harder edged style, but will offer up some moments of mellowness. Merritts is not a fusion or metallized style whatsoever, he will remind you of the days where speed and articulate fretboard navigation were not in vogue for guitarists, but bends, hammer ons and offs, and squeezing a good sustain were important parts of a guitarists repertoire.
Is Zip Tang an important newcomer to the progressive scene? This is a question that many progressive rock fans ponder with many new artists, but in the end, it's always a matter of tastes, and a few matters of fact, one being, is the band doing something new? The answer here is, yes. Zip Tang is doing something new, by having an ear for the past and an eye on the modern attitudes of alternative music. They have managed to be both accessible and radio unfriendly, while most of the reflective glances in the sake of referencing the band's roots for inspiration are that of older bands, they certainly do not sound like a retro band whatsoever, they are very contemporary sounding. And are only bringing elements and hints of the retro vibe into their sound. MJ Brady - Proggnosis.com
Zip Tang is a
Chicago-based band playing an extremely tight
progressive jazz-rock. Their debut CD, Luminiferous
Ether is incredible, especially considering this is
their first recording. It's pretty obvious these
guys are seasoned musicians, their playing is
precise and perfect, and they trade melodies from
one to another as if they are all part of a
mentally-linked hive mind (or as if they've listened
to some Gentle Giant before). Luminiferous Ether is
a collection of fine songs, with some Zappa-jazz
feel, a fair bit of hard-edged Fusion, an occasional
dash of blues and a whole lot of classic rock'n'roll
in the mix. There's not a song on the album that's
not really good, and several are just plain
spectacular, including the Zappa-influenced album
opener "Tower of Tuna".
Fred Trafton - GEPR.net
See all the reviews in their entirety here.