1. The Elusive Character of Victory (2:17)
2. Solar Anus (3:51)
3. Eli, Eli, Elu (6:26)
4. Arbol de la Esperanza Mantene Firme (2:31)
5. Monte Zu (4:54)
6. Untitled Samba for Kat Ex (2:16)
7. Muro Torto (5:02)
8. Tikkun Olam (2:12)
9. Mar Glaciale Artico (10:28)
Total time: 40:03
Line-up / Musicians
- Jacopo Battaglia/ drums
- Massimo Pupillo / bass
- Luca T Mai / sax
Zu are an Italian sax-bass-drums trio that consistently push the boundaries of jazz, often by liberally injecting aggressive doses of other musical genres into the mix: noise, electronics, punk, hip-hop, funk and more. On Igneo, the "punk-jazz" descriptor (which is often glibly applied to, say, a good bit of John Zorn's work) is apt, as the trio blaze through nine mostly short, hyperactive, spiky compositions.
Instead of pummeling the listener with intense and exploratory solos, which is so often the modus operandi of aggressive jazz groups, Zu instead slam through tight, intricate compositions in such a manner that sounds almost like Ahleuchatistas with sax instead of guitar (and a heavily distorted bass sound instead of a clean one). These compositions feature brutal rhythms, themes that fly by and change with breathtaking speed, and the kind of stop-on-a-dime spasticity that would make RIO fans jump for joy. The musicianship throughout is top-notch, and it's especially impressive that this stuff is so tight considering that the band welcome three high-profile Chicago guests to the sessions: Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop and Fred Lonberg-Holm (each of these guests only plays on a few tracks). Bassist Massimo Pupillo is worthy of note throughout the album, squeezing alien electronic noises out of his instrument at times, at others quite simply laying down the business with an earthy, heavily distorted tone that cuts through the mix and demands the listener's full attention.
"Solar Anus" (not named after the Japanese psych-rock band) is my favorite piece on the album, featuring an absolutely killer choppy bass riff overlaid by Luca Mai's apocalyptic blowing. A recent issue of Igneo also includes four remix tracks, all of which are pretty good, but the highlight is "Igneo Dead Verse," remixed by American experiment hip-hoppers Dälek. This is a true hybrid track, with dälek rapping over the top of an uneasy mix of electronic haziness and Luca Mai's distinctively choppy sax work. Zu and Dälek have a 7" collaboration out that I haven't heard, but if this track is an indication of its quality, I'm definitely interested.
With or without the remixes, Igneo is a "jazz" album that will alienate most jazz listeners while delighting folks who dig stuff like RIO and "brutal prog" — think Upsilon Acrux, Ruins, Hella and so on. Too restless to be confined to any single paradigm, Zu have made a lot of very interesting recordings, but alongside the tremendous Radiale with Ken Vandermark's Spaceways Inc, Igneo is up there with the best of the ones I've heard.