Zun Zun’s new material traverses in ecstatic bursts of colourful energy one moment, before delving into a moodier, almost sinister undercurrent at the next.
It’s certainly been a long while since Zun Zun Egui last brought their kaleidoscopic, genre-hopping psych-rock to Bristol, but their show at the Exchange this past Friday night was more than just a homecoming. Ahead of a highly anticipated second album, the follow up to 2011’s Katang, the show permitted the band to air new material in familiar surroundings.
But this new material, unfamiliar and almost intimidatingly bold, which formed the majority of their set seemed a vast leap from the Zun Zun of old. This is hardly surprising though considering the band’s overall fondness for unrelenting experimentation, and Kushal Gaya’s flirtations with Avant Jazz-oriented Melt Yourself Down over the past couple of years.
Unlike Melt Yourself Down however, Zun Zun’s new material traverses in ecstatic bursts of colourful energy one moment, before delving into a moodier, almost sinister undercurrent at the next. It is a style of music always ridden in depth, and in the live setting, performing as a six-piece, never sounded as cacophonous. The second song of the set for instance, ‘African Tree’, was a strident, pulse-thumping number as both drummers pummelled out an insatiable tribalesque rhythm.
Yet Zun Zun are not simply a band laden in depth, but one that defies any and all simple conventions. At points, entire tracks are set out upon powerful vocal foundations. This culminated to the fore on a song mid-set, where an exhortation of mantra-like chanting took centre stage, as Gaya recited lyrics of ‘freedom’ and his ‘country’ over artful instrumentation.
At times, the six-piece set-up seemed slightly overbearing, as each instrument clamoured to be heard. This was particularly prevalent towards the beginning of their set, but for the most part thereafter, Zun Zun teemed with exuberance and rich texture.
There were two support acts on the night; for early arrivals, one-fifth of Bristol based luminaries Hi-Fiction Science, James McKeown. Whilst attendees at this point were few and far between – perhaps due to an unfurling StagFest just next door – McKeown put on a fair performance, despite few nervous jitters and technical mishaps.
However, by the time The Evil Usses appeared on stage, the audience was at once teeming. A fitting Bristol based four-piece that play, as they describe, ‘jazzy notrock, post-op pop’. Through wildly chaotic sax solos and spasmodic guitar bursts, The Evil Usses are a band full of sensory passion and provocation.
Ultimately, from the evening, it is difficult to summarise Zun Zun’s new material in a comprehensive way, but from what I can tell, the new material will make for a compelling listen, one equal to or greater than its predecessor. Certainly, the songs Zun Zun aired were not without minor faults, but these are easily permissible considering the style of uncontrollable, freeform music the band are hailed for.
Wrap your ears around a bit of ‘Katang’ right here: