(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Bromio (1999), 6.5/10
Igneo (2002), 7/10
Radiale (2004), 6/10
Dogon: Before And After (2002), 6/10
Dogon: Who Is Playing In The Shadow Of Whom? (2003), 5/10
Carboniferous (2009), 6.5/10
Cortar Todo (2015), 4.5/10
Jhator (2017), 5/10
Terminalia Amazonia (2019), 6.5/10

Zu, an all-instrumental Italian band (Massimo Pupillo on bass, Jacopo Battaglia on drums, Luca Mai on saxophone, and, on the first album, Roy Paci on trumpet), played some of the most adventurous post-rock music at the turn of the century, occasionally evoking the legendary Last Exit with Sharrock's guitar replaced by Pupillo's bass.

They fine-tuned their aesthetics through a series of theatrical soundtracks ("Vladimir Majakovskj", "Il Funambolo", "Histoire du Rock'n'Roll", "Octavia") and eventually debuted with Bromio (Wide, 1999) in a wild, loud and fast style that harked back to the heydays of jazzcore (Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress, the Ex). They simultaneously sprayed bits of funk onto their convoluted mix in the manner of the Contortions (Detonatore) and launched into gargantuan free-jazz fanfares (Xenitis, Asmodeo). Their tone runs the gamut from brainy (the hiccupping Testa Di Cane to droll (the vaudeville-like Zu Circus. The interplay is both geometrical and intricate, as best displayed in the frenzied Erotomane. While most compositions stick to a unitary core with little or no movement, La Grande Madre Delle Bestie ends the album with a transition from chaotic partying to melancholy introspection. Each of these short pieces is a strike at the core of prog-rock. By the standards of jazz-rock, this is harsh and jarring music.

Zu's fame began to trickle to the other side of the ocean, and led to two collaborations with Eugene Chadbourne: The Zu Side (New Tone, 2000) and Motorhellington (2001), a collection of ironic covers.

Pared down to a trio, but boasting the collaborations of saxophonist Ken Vandermark , trombonist Jeb Bishop and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, Zu released their second album, Igneo (Wide, 2002 - Frenetic, 2006). From the beginning, The Elusive Character of Victory states an "elastic" and sometimes deliberately unfocused concept of musical dynamics. The roaring and rampant Solar Anus boasts an almost tender break spoiled by an energetic saxophone solo. Even at their most convoluted, like in Eli Eli Elu, they can be both abstract and intimate: the instruments collide and overlap, run away in a breakneck race, but then pause and fade away, emitting only miniscule radiations for the entire second half. This is intelligent elegance that defies the laws of physics. That rare balance is on display again in Muro Torto, whose irrational concerto of timbres implodes in a jam of psychedelic colors. The nine-minute Mar Glaciale Artico is another essay of tangled eloquence: a propulsive fanfare that decays into a disjointed stream of consciousness that, in turn, sounds like the post-rock remix of a nocturnal blues jam. With its irregular rhythms and chaotic counterpoint, Monte Zu, on the other hand, is emblematic of how strident their music can be. Overall, this album stands as a tour de force of brutal, free-form instrumental music.

Dogon is bassist Massimo "Zu" Pupillo's project with turntablist Filippo "Okapi" Paolini and bassist Maurizio Martusciello. Before And After (Amanita, 2002) runs the gamut from Canterbury's jazz-rock to free-noise, but Who Is Playing In The Shadow Of Whom? (Wallace, 2003), with Martusciello mostly on electronics, sounds indulgent and unedited.

Radiale (Atavistic, 2004) was a collaboration with Chicago jazz-rock outfit Spaceways Inc (Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, Nate McBride), resulting in in cerebral jazzcore and psychotic funk-rock.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Alessandro Martin)

Gli Zu sono un quartetto italiano (Massimo Pupillo al basso, Jacopo Battaglia alla batteria, Luca Mai al sassofono, Roy Paci alla tromba), uno dei più avventurosi esempi di post rock all'alba del nuovo secolo, evocando talvolta i leggendari Last Exit con la chitarra di Sharrock's sostituita dal basso di Pupillo. Affinata la propria estetica con una serie di colonne sonore tetrali ("Vladimir Majakovskj", "Il Funambolo", "Histoire du Rock'n'Roll", "Octavia"), finalmente debuttano con Bromio (Wide, 1999), un'opera selvaggia, fragorosa e veloce (Detonatore, Testa di Cane, Epidurale, La Grande Madre Delle Bestie) che ricorda l'apice del jazzcore (Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress, the Ex), con pezzi di free-jazz e funk spruzzati in un contorto mix alla maniera di Captain Beefheart e Contortions. La fama degli Zu inizia a trapelare dall'altra parte dell'oceano, e porta a due collaborazioni con Eugene Chadbourne: The Zu Side (New Tone, 2000) e Motorhellingtone (2001) una raccolta di cover ironiche. Ridotti ad un trio, ma vantando le collaborazioni del sassofonista Ken Vandermark , del trombonista Jeb Bishop e del violoncellista Fred Lomberg-Holm, gli Zu pubblicano il loro secondo album Igneo (Wide, 2002), un tour de force di brutale e destrutturata musica strumentale. The Elusive Character of Victory, Eli, Eli, Elu e Mar Glaciale Artico raggiungono il raro equilibrio fra l'accademico e l'emozionale. I Dogon sono il progetto del bassista Massimo “Zu” Pupillo con il dj Filippo “Okapi” Paolini e il compositore d'avanguardia Maurizio Martuscello. Before And After (Amanita, 2002) spazia fra il jazz-rock di Canterbury ed il free-noise, ma Who Is Playing In The Shadow Of Whom? (Wallace, 2003) suona indulgente e poco curato. Radiale (Atavistic, 2004) è una collaboazione con la compagnia jazz-rock Spacewais Inc. (Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, Nate McBride), ne derivano un jazzcore cerebrale ed uno psicotico funk rock.

The Way of the Animal Powers (2005) was a collaboration with Fred Lomberg-Holm. How To Raise An Ox (2005) was a collaboration with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (of the Thing). Ardecore is a collaboration with other musicians focusing on covers of traditional folk songs.

The single Observing The Armies In The Battlefield (Public Guilt) was another burst of free-jazz madness.

Identification With The Enemy - A Key To The Underworld (Atavistic, 2007) is a collaboration with laptop musician Nobukazu Takemura.

Zu's Carboniferous (Ipecac, 2009), featuring guests such as the Melvins' Buzz Osbourne and Faith No More's Mike Patton, was a tour de force of rhythmic invention. In fact, the booming and tortured Ostia, pierced by a killer saxophone distortion, might be their most aggressive piece yet. All the instruments join to create the panzer rhythm of Chthonian before it plunges into a jelly of nervous fits. Heavy rhythm is again the foundation of Carbon, in this case a blend of industrial beat and funk syncopation. And the rhythm (a sort of fast Brazilian drumming) is the essence of Beats Viscera. Mimosa Hostilis is de facto a fantasia of tempo shifts.
The album, instead, does not invest enough time in exploring timbres and counterpoint, areas in which Zu has always excelled. The grotesquely creative effects of Soulympics (one of the non-instrumental songs and possibly the standout) show the level of sophistication that they can achieve. As for melodrama, Obsidian is the only piece that tries squarely to build up tension and suspense through a complex sequence of events.

ZU's Cortar Todo (2015) sounds like an unfinished work, a collection of sketches that were never expanded into proper compositions. glacial The Unseen War, for example, collates together field recordings, a bombastic riff and rhythmic gags but never sounds cohesive. The hiccupping chaotic jazz-rock jam Rudra Dances Over Burning Rome is too short to make any sense. A Sky Burial morphs from booming doom-metal to dissonant free-jazz and the rest of the (brief) compositions employ either or both of these ingredients to different degrees.

After this disappointing work, Zu opted for an ambient form of their post-jazz on the two lengthy suites of Jhator (2017). Jhator: A Sky Burial is a soundtrack for the Tibetan sky burial: field recordings of birds, a fanfare of traditional wind instruments, martial gongs, otherworldly rumbles, ghostly drones that sounds like screams... but after 15 minutes the music stops and the piece resumes as a magniloquent cinematic theme a` la Vangelis. The Dawning Moon Of The Mind tries to impress by incorporating traditional Eastern instruments such as the Japanese koto in a bombastic electronic and percussive setting, but after eleven minutes it becomes meandering and erratic, with a melancholy violin adagio duetting with evil sub-bass drones but never achieving real pathos. Both compositions are rather naive and amateurish, although each contains intriguing ideas.

Zu's Massimo Pupillo and Luca Mai teamed up with David Tibet of Current 93 for Mirror Emperor (2018), credited to Zu93.

Zu remained in ambient territory with the four colossal compositions of the much more mature Terminalia Amazonia (2019). Porta Arborea (17:33) begins with organ-like drones, jungle sounds and a person whistling. After seven minutes, celestial synth waves permeate the space. A sinister repetitive rumble mixes with interstellar signals. Aquatic vibrations evoke the cosmic music of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, and lead the piece to its calm end. Memoria Antica (18:38) begins with mysterious drones and field recordings. Whispering and chanting voices emerge from the fog of drones and pulsations, evoking shamanic rituals, while the soundscape gets increasingly busier and darker, the sounds more and more menacing. The "shamanic" chanting is even more intrusive in Dimora Ancestrale (19:50), that seems to be set in a prehistoric cave among mammuths and bats, and in Futuro Remoto (15:57), where the soundscape becomes more melodramatic and sinister.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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