Zun Zun Egui - Katang
The debut album from this Bristol-based four piece is almost too much to take in in a single listen. It's an exotic mixup of clattering funk, tribal rhythms, wild electric guitar wigouts, with a lot of catchy refrains as well. Zun Zun Egui began with an improvised session between guitarist/vocalist Kushal Gaya and keyboardist Yoshino Shigihara. One is Mauritian and one is Japanese, and together with producer Luke Mosse on bass and Matthew Jones on drums they caused a bit of a buzz in Bristol's underground scene.
They call their music 'free-range rock' and I think that's a fairly true description, though they do drift between funk, punk, African guitar music and Japanese avant-rock to make up this 'free-range' of theirs. With Kushal handling most of the vocal duties there is a strong French African vibe to the songs - in fact the lyrics are confounding, as they lapse between English, French and Mauritian Creole.
Title track 'Katang' is the lengthy chaotic opener, siren sounds giving way to busy rhythms and almost a 'call and response' vocal style. It's clear that they are very much a rock band working African elements into their mix. This means they will inevitably get compared to Talking Heads, though acts that are slightly more underground like the Magic Band or the Ex would be better comparisons. 'Mr Brown' is another long track which manages to embrace West African psychedelic guitar music and the prog sounds of early Yes, particularly in the bass playing. 'Cowboy' is edgy Beefheart/ Pop Group style overlaid with another Creole vocal, and it tries to be a lot of things in it 3 minute duration. 'Shogun' is another prog-flavoured instrumental.
I think the prog elements will surprise people who only know Zun Zun Egui from their hugely catchy single 'Fandango Fresh' – the 'sexy worm' song if you like. It's here in all it's madcap glory – and along with the slightly anthemic 'Twist My Head', it is the closest they get to a conventional pop song . The second half of the album takes a welcome downbeat turn and shows yet another side to the band. 'Dance of the Crickets' has some absolutely lovely guitar playing as does the mostly instrumental 'Sirocco'. In fact Kushal's guitar skills are my favourite thing about this album, he plays with a versatility that would have fitted in well with some of Beefheart's work.
This is an interesting debut and I'm intrigued to hear where they will go next. Whether they will pursue the pop ambitions of 'Fandango Fresh' or whether they will build on their improv roots and impressive instrumental skills. If this album is the blueprint I wouldn't be surprised if they try to both, and often in the same song!