Release Date: Jan 27, 2015
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It was very hard to pigeonhole Zun Zun Egui on their fantastically delightful 2011 debut album, Katang, and the same is true on their second album, Shackles' Gift. This time they have not only trod on the toes of many of their peers, they have left them in their wake. The multinational band's habit of effortlessly jumping through genres on a kaleidoscopic journey is still apparent.
On paper, Zun Zun Egui are the kind of band who risk coming across as intensely irritating. For one thing, there is their name: an apparently meaningless, just-exotic-enough moniker that could be derived from any number of languages. (It’s in fact a Basque word that the band chose because it sounds like the Japanese words for ‘fast fast weird’.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The pound and clatter of percussion creates an unmistakable, arresting groove that sets the scene for the introduction of skipping bass synthesiser and funky guitar riffs. The afro-funk of Fela Kuti certainly seems to have been conjured up, but the heavier, more electronic sound (particularly towards the tail end of the track) and frontman Kushal Gaya's enthusiastic vocal performance quickly dispel any ideas of tracing a musical lineage.
Bristol band Zun Zun Egui’s second album ‘Shackles Gift’ arrives four years after 2011’s promising debut ‘Katang’. In that time, much has changed in the world of Zun Zun Egui, both in terms of personnel and aesthetic. With the addition of two new members and a strong, strident, experimental rock sound, the band has grown from a loose collective into a truly formidable beast.
Zun Zun Egui include musicians from Mauritius and Japan but are based in Bristol, and their moniker sums up their global approach to music. Like 2011’s Katang, Shackles’ Gift is world music in the truest sense. Their cross-pollinating approach seems to try and cram everything from highlife and reggae to post-punk into a funky, rock core. There are walls of clattering drumming, euphoric chanting in what occasionally sounds like different languages, Television-type angular guitars on Tickle the Line and, at one point, what sounds like a collection of sea birds.
Just what are Zun Zun Egui supposed to be? Their founding members are Mauritian and Japanese, but they describe their new record as 'a British rock record made by a British group'. It's a lot more far-out than most recent albums worthy of similar descriptors, that's for sure. If you go by that dour single phrase and leap into the bold and colourful world of Shackles' Gift, you'll be stunned by what you find.
It would be wrong to claim that punk-funk is peculiar to Bristol but, from the Pop Group to Tricky’s darker moments, it’s a sound the city’s groups frequently exploit. The latest exponents are Zun Zun Egui, a quintet whose second album takes its inspiration from the band’s trip to Mauritius last year. One of the country’s most popular genres, seggae, is combined with scratchy riffs, excitable vocals and, on the closing City Thunder, stoner rock.
Prior to 2011’s debut Katang, Zun Zun Egui had spent a couple of years playing anything-goes shows of increasing size and musical abandon in their adopted hometown of Bristol. That debut had an impossible task: trying to harness the carnival of thrilling ideas and visceral tangents that had become the group’s trademark. The worldwide hard-touring that followed has given the band a new kind of focus.
Zun Zun Egui's first album, 2012's Katang, was definable by its lack of definition, a cocktail of jumbled languages, insatiable jitters and joyous guitar bumbles, all neatly coexisting. For their second, the Bristol-based but internationally-derived bunch have dialled down their splattered influences and, as such, we join them in a focused mood so punishing and sweaty it gives you pelvis-ache and uncomfortable pants just thinking about it. The focus is not merely musical, it pervades all aspects of the record from the outset.
Definitely not named for the recently deceased Spanish footballer, Bristol’s Zun Zun Egui have been brandishing their uproarious take on West African rhythms and skronking math-metal since 2008, bringing off-kilter delight first to the West Country, then, of course, the world via their celebratory live shows and 2011 album Katang. Four years and an inspirational trip to singer/guitarist Kushal Gaya’s home country of Mauritius later, we have Shackle’s Gift, a multilingual, experimental freakout of fusion, funk and free jazz that draws influences from every corner of the world (both physical and musical) and reforms them as solid, sedimentary rocks of pop music. It’s a largely joyous experience, case in point being recent lead single “African Tree”, a striding, lolling, grinning cartoon stomp that offers, half-drugged “I just can’t see your face” before leaping into a maddeningly memorable Talking Heads chorus.