Zong: Zong

- Brisbane isn’t a city known for its sprawling psych jams, certainly not by comparison to the likes of Melbourne or Perth, home of such respected astral travellers as King Gizz or Tame Impala. It doesn’t mean the humid horror of the northern metropolis doesn’t boast some pretty heavily grooving bands, rising out of the murk. Take Dreamtime and Sacred Shrines for example, or a comparatively recent entry in the field, Zong. Only out and about for little more than a year, the trio loom pretty large thanks to their ability to carve out shaggy, ten minute stoner epics. For very solid evidence see their debut, self-titled full-length. It’s only four songs long but clocks in at nearly forty-five minutes. I should note that it’s been available to melt heads here in Australia since early November on Praying Mantis and even a bit longer through the band’s own bandcamp, but is only just receiving an overseas release thanks to UK psych-merchants Cardinal Fuzz - which could seem like cultural cringe on my part I suppose; but hell, I’ll take my licks, Zong are worth it. It’s also something of a trend for Brizzie psych, to skip ‘making it’ in Oz and instead just connecting with psych-heads across the globe; that feels like a positive trend to me.

Back to the jams at hand: as an instrumental psych-stoner band Zong aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but they sure know what to do with it. They’re musically astute and quite aware of the history of their form, giving nods to SabbathHendrix and heading on down the line to the likes of Sleep and Earthless. It’s difficult to be a decent musician without listening to what everyone else does and, with the depth and circumspection Zong display in their own music, it’s easy to get the impression that they listen widely, long beyond the borders of their own sound.

Another thing it pays to be able to do as a musician, is improvise and, yes, Zong are dab hands at this too. I can’t imagine how long they spent noodling in a garage somewhere, or studying jazz at a conservatorium, but by the time they roared out their first live show -captured for posterity on their own bandcamp- the three of them could already interact with an impressive fluidity. This is repeated, adroitly on the new album; indeed variations on the same songs comprise half of it and it’s a pleasure to hear them work variations on the overarching themes.

While the body of the sound is created from giant, Sabbath-esque, stoner riffs, Zong use the epic length of their songs wisely, imparting a sense of trajectory that has the majesty of post-rock, but is often substantially more interesting than most post-rock bands tend to be. Guitarist Adam Anderson and bassist Michael Grinstead often duel frenetically, filling up every nook and cranny of the sound, always providing something novel to focus on.

Whether Australia at large notices, Zong are completely focused on their intricate jams and the mind-bending, sci-fi stories they create incessantly to go with them: interstellar insect beings invading from other dimensions always seem to be crawling out of their facebook posts and interviews. In the time-honoured tradition of things heavy and weird, Zong are skipping the hype machine and connecting directly with the masses of underground fans who love those things. Have a listen yourself and you’ll learn why.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Zong
Artist: Zong
Record Label: (Praying Mantis / Cardinal Fuzz)