From the first strains of Monica Rodriguez’ voice on Sounds of Machines, Zigmat defies categorization. Is it electronic? Jazz? Soul? Rock? Dance? Somehow the duo of Rodriguez and bassist Stephen Yonkin manage to pull them all off in spectacular fashion.
The duo performed at this year’s SXSW in March with guitarist Santiago Munoz and drummer Dan Duggins. From all reports, the crowd dug them. And that seems to be the case wherever they perform, from the Mercury Lounge, Joe’s Pub, Nublu and Canal Room in New York City to the diverse crowds of SXSW.
Their album Sounds of Machines (SoM) fuses electronic beats and disparate styles to blur the lines between genres, creating a sound totally unique to Zigmat. I can only imagine that the band would be amazing in concert. The CD opens with Rodriguez soaring above simple, haunting keyboards and harp-ish guitar for “Whisper” and closes with “Machine” where an addictive dance beat, eerie background voices, and revolutionary words – “Stand up and face your fears again…” – urge you to break away from the patterns dictated by the machines in your life.
The sheer diversity of music styles on this CD surprised me. From the almost Speakeasy-sounding vocals at the beginning of “Whisper” to the sweet drums, off-beat guitar, Latin-feel blended with electronica and Spanish-language lyrics of “Don’t Tire”… From the soothing piano of “So Sure” to the slick bass-line of “Fire”… These folks know how to groove in any language or musical style.
Among my favorites, the bookend tracks of the CD – “Whisper” and “Machine” – but also the beautiful multi-lingual voice of Rodriguez on “Don’t Tire” and the hypnotic and haunting “Fire”.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the lyrics. I’ve already gushed about Rodriguez voice and the amazing arrangements from her and Yonkin. But without the words, there would be a big piece of the puzzle missing.
The simple, yet evocative verse of “Between Bullets” cries out – “Spinning mind at sea rise and fall / fall rising / forgetting to remember…”. For me, it brings to mind the inability of the brain to remember pain. And then in the chorus with “Between bullets and targets / salt on wounds heal regrets” reinforces the verse as though the singer is lost on the wrong side of a losing war.
And then there’s the inevitable breakup song in “Decide”, where the woman has had it… “You know we really could’ve had it all / all my strength you know it really couldn’t keep us strong / cuz done with your games and baby I’m done with the riddles…” In the chorus, the sentiment is sealed and she’s sure she’s done. “You wanted to break the ties / shut up and decide / I won’t keep wasting my time…”
If you want to hear something different and creative that blends poetry and musical genres to provide a unique experience, check out Zigmat’s Sounds of Machines at your local music store or online. If you want to know more about the band, visit their website or MySpace page. And if they’re in your neck of the woods, be sure to check them out live!