German instrumental three-piece ZAHN (featuring members of Einstürzende Neubauten and Heads) combines musical elements that might seem strange on paper, but make perfect sense on record. 


Krautrock, Noise Rock, Doom, Alt Rock, a little Jazz, Electronic and Post-Rock are all labels that could be applied to different parts of the group’s second record, Adria (Crazysane Records).  


With the trio handling bass, synthesizer, guitar, lap steel guitar, electric piano and drums between them (plus a little guest saxophone on the album’s closer “Idylle”), ZAHN puts all their various musical components together into a multi-faceted construction that could fool the listener into thinking Krautrock, Doom and Jazz get mixed together all the time, repeatedly making their clearly very organic music seem mechanized, without being stiff or stilted. 


Eschewing typical verse-chorus-verse structures, Adria is an album of transitions, with each track generally ending up in quite different terrain from where it started. 


Tracks such as opener “Zebra” (with its repetitive, tapping high hat, 8/8 beat and quivering keys) and “Faser” (with its Kraftwerk evoking shuffle) bring to mind long car rides on the autobahn, before fluidly transitioning into Alt-Rock churns more reminiscent of bands like Jesus Lizard or Tomahawk. 


Elsewhere, as on “Tabak” and “Yuccatan 3E”, the hard-rocking rhythms lead from the start, with the former evolving from doomy riffs into sparse, glistening Post-Rock. Often a churning bass-line is a linchpin for the tracks, while the guitars come in a variety of musical shapes and forms. There’s the scuttling Radiohead (circa-OK Computer) intro of “Zehn”, or the Fripp-esque staccato playing of “Schmuck”, or the soaring front-and-center Rock grooves that take over the later stages of “Apricot.”  



At eighty minutes, it’s quite a long journey, but then again if you are driving from state to state, this could just be the perfect companion to punctuate the gradually shifting scenery. With the album’s title a nod to European holiday culture and cover art’s slightly off-holiday brochure aesthetic, there’s a playfulness and sense of parody to ZAHN that’s easy to warm to. 


Remove the out-there Zappa flourishes and metal squalls of Mr. Bungle’s California record and you might find yourself in similar terrain to Adria. A Deutscher Urlaub featuring quite a few LA-acquired bumper stickers on the vehicle. 


Buy the album here:


8 / 10