Much can be (and has been) said about Zu’s ability to fold a variety of genres into…whatever it is they do. Yes, they combine free-form jazz, metal, noise, electronica, drone and, like, six other genres into their sound. And yes, the Italian trio’s ability to find cohesion within its “do whatever we want” style has been noted - and rightly so.
Cortar Todo materializes roughly six years after Zu’s previous album, Carboniferous, and its task is indeed of a difficult nature. Not only had these Romans achieved an almost perfect balance between experimentalism and fluidity while on a mission to engage a wider audience, but the outcome managed to arouse interest well outside their niche. Massimo Pupillo (bass), Luca Mai (sax baritone) and Gabe Serbian (drums), of the Locust fame, have managed to revolutionize their sound while sticking to their mission.
Zu is an Italian extreme instrumental act that has cultivated a cult following over the past 15 years and itâ€™s not without reason. Itâ€™s not without reason that theyâ€™ve gained a consistent following because while they root their music in metal, influenced by the low, heavy rumble of modern thrashers like High on Fire and Tryptikon as well as the dark, weird ambience of Neurosis. Itâ€™s also not without reason that theyâ€™ve remained cultish because: a) this music is not so easily labeled as â€œmetalâ€ or even â€œAvant-gardeâ€ and B)itâ€™s far out stuff.Despite the bandâ€™s spastic, bombastic, thrash-tic nature, Cortar Todo seems aimed at the big leagues.
It’s been five years since Zu released the mind-boggling, genre spanning, freak-out album Carboniferous. Although there’s been an EP and a collaboration with Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson since then, Cortar Todo represents the band’s first real statement of intent for quite some time. Clearly things have changed for the band. There’s been a slight line-up change with new drummer, Gabe Serbian (of The Locust) lining up alongside Massimo Pupillo (bass) and Luca Mai (baritone saxophone), but there has also been a fundamental shift in the band’s dynamics.
No music has power, really. You might think otherwise, but you’d be wrong. You’d be wrong because, for every song or symphony lauded as potent, there’s always a listener with vulnerabilities, susceptibilities, and weaknesses on the other end, a listener whose leanings selectively constrain the form a piece of music can take and whose own emotional potential is projected onto its notes.
Italian jazz-metal experimentalists Zu have garnered an extensive list of collaborations in their fifteen-year career. What we know as 'Zu' really comprises an attitude to making jazz-inflected math-metal more than a static collection of instrumentalists. Nonetheless, the departure of drummer Jacopo Battaglia following the trio’s utterly brilliant Carboniferous opus released via Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings in 2009, temporarily put up an immovable object before the unstoppable force.
Without sacrificing any of the solidity, astringency or brutality akin to their previous blood-lettings, Zu spit out their most astral of recordings. The map as charted out by Carboniferous and Goodnight, Civilization sets Cortar Todo in another frame of reference: the transmundane is portrayed in a musical experience which dances on the shadows of previous experiments, as the new ideas rise a level up towards certitude. As we could expect, Cortar Todo ('cut everything' in Spanish) becomes its own island and dodges any kind of possible labelling one might throw at it.