Press & Reviews

The Way Of The Animal Powers (reviews 2005)

published 15/03/2015

The way of the animal powers Review by: Andrea Ferraris
Probably, together with the work with Spaceway inc., this' the best Zu release so far or at least that's my personal opinion (obviously). If you've had the luck to see them live you probably know they're a real "panzer division", but it's also true that detractors say their musician skill prevented their live sets and their impros from being always interesting. Personally, while I generally appreciated Zu as a live band even if a bit too self-indulgent, I've always thought on the records they were not always equally as impressive, that's why I really didn't know what to expect from their last record. But that's talent/class, I mean, right when you think there's "nothing new under the sun", right then the real outsider comes out with something great and unexpected. What to say about "The way of the animal powers"? That's for sure one of their heaviest release, Zu left their typical neurotic convulsive approach home and started relenting, the result is to say it all unusual since it could match together many math-rock, jazz core, experimental styles with industrial freakiness. If ever Zu wanted to evolve into something different, the result is finally accomplished, infact this release in its complexity have the genius and the atmosphere you could find in many avant-jazz or experimental releases back in the eighties or during the early nineties (in this case I'm speaking in particular of David Moss, Fred Frith, Tom Cora or John Zorn). This work is incredibly odd and leaves you with the idea the three romans have explored their secrete fears to turn them into music. This time Fred Longberg Holm is "tonight's special guest", but the newest incredible weapons together with brain and patience are the samples and the vocals. The samples (I've also recognized something from the debut cd of A Short Apnea) are what they were lacking here and there, but everything they've added on this record has been put at the right place, after the cd is over the impression is it also has the right length which to me itself is a great (and above all rare) thing. The track where the drummer is singing is that "something more" that makes the final difference: "Every seagull knows" is odd, delirious and visceral at the same time, the final result could be described as if Chet Baker was singing in front of a caterpillar. This track reminded me of some old and dark No Means No nightmares but in general I think Zu are right in the middle of their maturity.
The way of the animal powers   Helder Gomes, LAS magazine
Joseph Campbell was an American writer and orator well-known for his studies on comparative mythology. The title for Zu’s latest record is taken from 1983’s The Way of the Animal Powers, a fine introduction to world mythology. Since there’s no greater mythology than that of rock music, an instant connection is made and appreciated - so let’s move on with no further delay.  Simply put, this 25-minute record shows the Italian ensemble at their most mature, and it follows Radiale - a much-acclaimed collaborative effort with Spaceways Inc. - released last year on Atavistic. Despite its title, we believe no animals were harmed in the making of these nine dysfunctional, droid-made, jazzy clusters. In order to augment their eccentric orbits and spit out all the insurrect sounds they live up to, Zu invited Fred Lonberg-Holm, a renowned cellist that has worked, among others, with Morton Feldman and Anthony Braxton.  But what really makes Zu break from the norm of contemporary jazz-core is its readiness to wrangle around a song, articulate it with strings at fucked-up angles and go beyond the symplistic take on chunk-based music. For instance, Luca Tomasso’s sax is not in the slightest reminiscent of the apprentice’s scholastic mannerisms, but more in tune with Sweden’s Mats Gustafsson (with whom Zu will be releasing How to Raise an Ox sometime next month).  If the opening track, “Tom Araya Is Our Elvis,” makes you wonder which direction Zu is heading to with this album - from the sample-endorsed “Anatomy of a Lost Battle” on - the band scotches any fear that their sound would be less bleak and easier than usual. You may argue that simplicity is what it takes to hold everyone’s heart, but simplicity is rather boring sometimes. Aging a song is like nurturing and looking after a baby and it takes time. 
Jacopo, on percussion, also does the vocal part on the last piece, “Every Seagull Knows”, a contemplative drum-based invocation of all things supernatural. It features a crying baby and wards off the spread of tainted, diehard stiffness that popped up from the rest of the album. Massimo’s bass lines are a case study in unpatterned, sinister ventures, hanging clouds of dust and heavy rain here and there. Before that, the circular, lounge-driven number that is “The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town” on its own makes the album a valuable purchase, but in the case that you like going all quartz-like, detailing each parameter in music, the following track should be your favorite. Either way, Zu is one of the missing links between Evan Parker’s spiraling tones and John Zorn’s aggravated subtelities. Go and grab it now!