Toronto show promoter Tad Michalak of Burn Down the Capital deserves serious kudos for assembling yet another fantastic bill. The inspired pairing may have sounded odd on paper, but the time-stopping soundscapes of New York noise-jazz madmen Zs and an ensemble performance of Steve Kado's minimalist pop composition "2003" were a match made in pointillist heaven.
Following a sweaty opening set from drum machine punks Sailboats Are White, Kado assembled his instrumental armada (including recognizable faces from Not the Wind, Not the Flag and the Creeping Nobodies) and launched into the 30-minute piece. Previous arrangements of "2003" have included portable keyboards or a solo recording for drum, bell, guitar and synth, but tonight's expanded set-up featured five guitars, bass, synth and iPhone. In the tradition of Steve Reich or Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4, the players deftly shifted through phrases while running in and out of phase to create an ecstatic stream of sound. The only downer was a member of the crowd injecting his own bellowed vocals during the performance to the annoyance of everyone around him, but not even this uninvited contribution could take away from the trip.
This appearance from Zs marked the group's first return to Toronto following a five-year absence, and an excited crowd gathered for the occasion. Touring in support of a compilation celebrating their ever-evolving decade of activity, sax-wielding mastermind Sam Hillmer has switched up the band's lineup once again to include guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, ex-Liturgy and a one-man 99 Boadrums). Setting the mood with some eerie ambience and garbled electronics, the trio kicked into an absolute monster of a jam balancing moments of restraint with extreme blowouts. The machinelike concentration and pure musical ESP displayed on stage was staggering, while the band blurred the thin line between harshness and beauty with the ease of seasoned veterans.