(^#<+*€$¥•~%?) by ZD Grafters

Release date: November 3, 2023
Label: Hidden Mantra Records

ZD Grafters are a father and son duo making largely improvised, experimental, instrumental music which can be hard to pin down but which they call ‘parole jazz’. This album with the tricky to pronounce title (​^​#<​+​*​€​$​¥​·​~​%​?​) has been available digitally for a while but is just now getting a limited physical release should you wish to clutch it in shiny compact disc form.

For this set Zac is on drums, Dave on electronics, and they’re brewing up a range of sweet, atmospheric, moods to complement your relaxation. The somewhat bizarre string of symbols in the album title is also the tracklist, each of the eight tracks has a single symbol for a title. There are no words here, no real suggestion of anything outside of itself. You could almost call it formalist if that didn’t make it sound austere and self serious. It’s very approachable music, playful and inquisitive. While the structures are loose at best it’s never ugly or difficult and it’s far too impatient to ever get dull.

It starts off moody and minimal with almost house of horror synth tones and skittering twitching cymbals. By contrast the second track ‘#’ barrels in with energy to spare, excitable hyperactive drums and the synths firing off a rapid pulse. Roughly the album’s tracks alternate between the more introspective and the rambunctious. Moody cave chords and close encounters with the drone interspersed with wilder percussive moments and surprising twists and turns. It rarely, if ever, settles into something you might call a groove but it never collapses into a chaotic heap either, it’s light on its feet, senses heightened.    

With a relatively limited sound palette they draw out an impressively wide range of shades, sonically contrasting exuberance and disturbance throughout. ‘$’ pushes the record’s teenage half into a dizzy spin before the longer final track ‘¥’ stretches out to the close. It has a more soundtrack feel but is still too scrambled and stubborn to be pulled into a simple narrative reading.

But is it jazz? Does anyone care? I asked a pipe-smoking aficionado just to be on the safe side. He said “My dear boy, the selections here are really something. This is music in the tempo of now, circling the traditions of tomorrow. Fresh and alive with modern sounds and young ideas. Psychically transmitting concussions, lucid uplifts and down draft recollections, non-verbal outlooks and inner transformations, dig it.”

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