Zos Kia – 23 CD Infinite Fog 2017
For background context Zos Kia was the primary 1980’s musical vehicle of John Gosling and holds a special place within the early development phase of industrial music. This is predominantly due to their only official album Transparent, issued on cassette in 1984 via the cult label Nekrophile Rekords, and while that album was labeled as a split/collaboration with Coil, the group membership at the time were effectively interchangeable between the two. As for musical content Transparent, included a live recording of Zos Kia on Side A, being a performance made at the Berlin Atonal festival from 1983, while Side B contained a series of tracks credited to Coil/Zos Kia. In an overarching sense Transparent features early proto ritual-industrial, where tonal noise shards slash across rumbling guitar feedback and underscored with clanging metallic ritualized percussion, sampled dialogue and wailing/ screeched evocation-based vocals. But apart from this lone release, Zos Kia also issued two EP’s in the mid 1980’s, where 23 functions to collect together those EP’s and archive them with a large volume of Zos Kia recordings made over the years, with the addition of a couple of extracts from the Transparent album itself.
Having not delved into Zos Kia recordings outside of Transparent, I was immediately surprised by how different the material in 23 is in sound and execution, where the opening track Black Action has a guitar-based band groove and swagger, with spoken vocals and is unlike anything I would have ever expected from the group. The following track Be Like Me equally surprises when the solo piano format breaks out into an almost electro-funk number of constant kick drum, driving bass and central piano riff and swirling guitar line. It is only when 10 Miles High arrives that the attitude and sonic dissonance of earlier material makes an appearance, and the sinister soundscape throb of Rape calls to mind a hazy drugged sound that Coil would hone in later years, while An Absolute manages to meld the earlier sound of the project but within a ridged guitar/ programmed drum format. As for the second electro-funk excusion on Muggy The Staff, to my ear at least is an entirely redundant attempt at a commercial sound, and has me again scratching my head that this is actually the same band as featured on Transparent. As for the last quarter of CD1, this includes a number of remixes of earlier featured tracks, but which really do not warrant further comment.
CD2 opens with Ake, a squalling feedback and gabled voice-based track, and quickly follows with a doomy synth version of An Absolute, which deviates enough from the original to be individually interesting. The flowing tryptic of the lengthy unreleased tracks from 1982, including Era Vulgaris A1, Era Vulgaris A3 and Harry Wouldn’t Like It, sound to be live recordings or rehearsals and sonically reflects the chaotic ritualized dissonance of the Transparent recordings. In then moving well into the run order of the second disc, it features a short 1984 live recording of Be Like Me, as well as three tracks from the Transparent album (two tracks Baptism of Fire and Poisons from the 1983 Berlin Atonal show, as well as the lengthy tensile guitar feedback soundscape Sewn Open). The archive set is then rounded out with two unreleased tracks, including Sways Backwards from 2006 and Sleazy Said from 2000 and with their respective throbbing/ stilted programming and pulsing choral soundscape gives a clear nod to the surreal atmospheres of late area Coil. In fact, Sleazy Said is noted to be a musical collaboration between John Gosling and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and for me are perhaps the best and most interesting compositions of the entire two CD set.
Noting that I have never been a Zos Kia obsessive, which then means that while 23 is an interesting collection, from this perspective it is personally a non-essential release, particularly due to various tracks falling well outside of what I would ever bracket under an industrial/ post-industrial banner. Yet for others who Zos Kia is a pivotal artist of influence, this extensive double CD set will be of absolutely intrigue to the early industrial (and beyond) experimentations of John Gosling. A digi-book sleeve and detailed liners notes in an eight-page booklet rounds out a slick presentation.