Saturday 8 December 2012

Zelliack - Noir Tone EP

Texas duo Zelliack are striving to inject a little soul into our downtrodden lives. Their name might be a little unoriginal and cliched in its source (a portmanteau of the pair's forenames: Zack Ordway and Elliot Coleman) but their music takes jazz's relaxed approach to structure and combines it with a unique concoction of smooth guitar grooves, melodic acrobatics, and vocal playfulness to ensure that what we hear is anything but hackneyed.

There's always a worry that anything experimental might just push our boundaries a little too much; but whilst Zelliack definitely seem to enjoy writing themselves out of any genre-defining pigeon-holes (soul? r&b? progressive rock? jazz?... they cover a lot of ground), they are also very careful to ensure that no second on their EP is superfluous.

Zack's work with the instruments is hard to fault. Whether we are being beautifully sedated in some of the quieter moments or pumped up during the busiest sections, every strum and slap seems to have been chosen with a cunning precision. This guy knows what he's doing, and he's doing it well.

Equally, Elliot shows off his vocal range to glorious effect and does so with no arrogance: it's satisfying to hear him belt out several higher-pitched lines on one song, and then flow flawlessly through his lower range. In fact, some of the key points on the EP are those that push and pull us through pitch and tempo - a flurry of words and beats here, a focussed pause there.

Lyrically there is a charming lack of brevity in Zelliack's words that, importantly, steers well clear of pretentiousness. It seems that they want to say as much as possible in each song and - whilst metaphor and imagery isn't used particularly often - their directness gives the music an honesty which fits perfectly.

This debut EP is full and gratifying, with Zack and Elliot complementing each other in a way that resembles the best moments of Tears For Fear's Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, and with a smooth style that's been profoundly absent until now.

Since the release of Noir Tone in February this year, Zelliack have kept us interested with the release of a further track ("Smoove") as well as covering Michael Jackson's "Baby Be Mine". I hope to hear a great deal more from them in 2013.

"The best songwriting comes from being as creative as you can and editing it down to the good bits, essentially" - Alex Kapranos

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