No Zu : Life
Alarm bells ring when I see the garish mishmash of surrealist trash on the cover of the No Zu album. On paper, global-music genre-hopping that incorporates no-wave pop and tribal funk is a little worrisome, too – you’d have thought there was nothing more to be gained by filling a stage with multi-instrumentalists chanting in unison while banging on steel drums and cowbells. Yet this local outfit prove that there’s life in the old dog yet. Not only that, they manage to give it a fresh spin by way of their richly textured songs of gutter glamour.
Nicolaas Oggjies, drummer from the sadly no-more TTT (Tik Tok Tokyo), has well and truly found his rhythm here. He’s been playing the long game since 2007, piecing together scraps from his bedroom and slowly gathering collaborators to eventually form a distinctive sound and a core band. The Graffiti and New Age EPs were promising indicators of a new direction, but debut long-player Life is a fully formed, glittering tapestry of futuristic nu-funk.
The concrete jungle fever creeps in on opening track, Spiritual Heatwave. Next, the seven-minute-long Fa Famo Fi spins around a sampled "I don’t wanna", but resistance is futile and the band start spitting out vowels and yelps to keep up with the pace. Oggjies’ vocal alone is weird enough to keep things interesting, so the mid-album triumphs Eternity and Loving You Overtime stick to a grounded, uncluttered rhythm and deliver tight, butt-shaking numbers that sit somewhere between Grace Jones and World’s End Press. Some of the shorter, more freeform numbers aren’t as effective, but work well enough as simmering bridges between the more accomplished songs.
No Zu take the ordinary, the uncool and the bored, and make it all into something beautiful and extraordinary. This celebration of life via the mundane parts of it is a key theme in the music and is also reflected outside of it; the clip for Emotion is like Gummo through the lens of Darren Sylvester, while promo stills show the group mixing junk-shop glam with suburban shopping. Life focuses in on the less glamorous side of real life and transforms it into one big, sensual, all-consuming party.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Loving You Overtime
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In A Word: Outlandish