ZU: The Exchange, Bristol – live review
20 November 2015
Italian instrumentalists, ZU are experimental ‘mentalists’ of the highest order. they have a unique sense of what a band can be and, invariably what they can create from a given dynamic. Luca T Mai’s use of a baritone saxophone as his core instrument, matched with the insane drumming skills of Tomas Jarmyr and the bass work of Massimo Pupillo. Their sound is abrasively intense and heavy, as if John Zorn had taken helm of Black Sabbath, with their fourteenth album, ‘Cortar Todo’, the band show no let up from making some of the most interestingly intense, heavy shit. Largely thanks to Mike Patton and his record label, Ipecac who have continued to support Zu throughout their sixteen years recording and performing.
The moment ZU take to the stage and start pounding at their given instruments, the intensity level hits the red. Massimo Pupillo’s bass is used very much a guitar with him moving between strumming through his distortion and playing more traditional basslines in order to support the free-jazz freak outs of Luca and his ginormous sax. Riffs fly off in all directions, shifting in tempo and style so often it becomes a dizzying soup. Tomas’ drumming is glue holding together their disparate parts, giving the riff dynamic a serious whacking. He often raises from his drum stool to hit the drums as if punishing them just for being there.
Tracks such as, ‘Rudra Dances Over Burning Rome’ and ‘Cortor Todo’ off the new album perfectly instill the ZU essence. A faultlessly powerful sound that amazes you of the musical abilities as well as their inventive stamina. As soon as you think you have a handle on a songs melody it shifts, mutates and crumbles as if imploding from it’s own weight. ‘Carbon’ which is performed with Patton on the album, ‘Carboniferous’ sounds particularly violent tonight as it cuts a groove deeply through the brain. At the end of the set, the praise heaped on ZU from all present shows how affecting this band can be by bring something truly unique to the musical plate.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.