The Zillions - Play! Zeuxis: Xight? Zeen…
I heard gorgeous reverse guitars, it sounded like falling rain. It was coming through my car stereo. Massive droplets falling and landing, all around. I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. I turned up the radio and listened intently. What a beautiful wall of guitar, all glistening and swirly.
I was having a serious moment right here with this track. I sat wide-eyed and stared at those notes dropping around me. Wowsers! It came at the right time too, I’d recently found Loveless, or, in other worlds, my whole fucking world came tumbling around me because I had just discovered SHOEGAZE!
I later learned that that track was “Back in Your Arms” by The Zillions, taken from the spectacularly titled album Play! Zeuxis: Xight? Zeen…. I purchased the album immediately; I needed more of those guitars. And who the fuck was this band? Why weren’t they in the “shoegaze essentials” lists I’d been educating myself with?
Play! Zeuxis: Xight? Zeen… is probably Australia’s finest shoegaze effort to date and certainly one of the most criminally overlooked releases in the genre. The album was released in 2008, perfectly aligning with the second wave of shoegaze. It was a time in which the genre was mutating in different forms and directions, through post-rock, math-rock, electro and other influencers. Bands like Deerhunter, The Horrors, Have a Nice Life, Alcest and A Place to Bury Strangers released quality releases toward the end of the 2000s, turning immense critical attention back onto shoegaze for the first time in almost 20 years.
The Zillions were a shoegaze act clearly taking cues from the genre’s original big names, specifically Ride and MBV, but were distinct enough to have created a sound completely their own without needing to rely on riding the wave of contemporary genre trends. The band embody a ruggedness apparent with much of Australia’s best underground rock output, a sound that can be heard particularly in The Zillions frontman Nick Craft’s late 90s output for the band Sidewinder, or more recently in the loud jangle of The Twerps and Blank Realm.
The Zillions also make clear references to the opaque and sparkly guitars of The Byrds, particularly on the album’s lead single “Back in Your Arms”. The oooh ooohs throughout “Leaves” and “Who is Me?” are obviously directly indebted to MBV. “Teeth of the Hydra” contains elements of heavier shoegaze, notably rockers like Swervedriver and Ride, and can be seen as a direct lineage to Craft’s earlier work in Sidewinder. And finally, closing track “Where Are You on the Weekend?” is an extended and psychedelic avant-garde wall-of-sound folk track reminiscent of the work of Natural Snow Buildings and is without question the most immense and emotionally engaging release on the record.
Filled wall to wall with high quality noise rock and gorgeously expansive sonic detail, Play! Zeuxis: Xight? Zeen… is a forgotten Australian classic and one I’ve been saddened to see frequently in local bargain bins. The band fell apart not long after the release of the record, having only this full-length and an EP to their name. Play! Zeuxis: Xight? Zeen… failed to successfully ride the second shoegaze wave and cast only a minor ripple throughout the Melbourne music landscape, remaining a lost masterpiece from an incredible Australian songwriter and noisemaker.