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Album Review: Zun Zun Egui – Katang

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What’s in a name? Zun Zun Egui means something like “Fast forward weird” in Japanese. The four-piece band from Bristol, UK, made up of a Mauritian, a Japanese, and an all-British rhythm section, promises to shake an exotic cocktail and hardly fall short with their debut album, Katang. Just about everything is thrown into the sonic mix as East meets West in a melee of energetic jazz rock, funk grooves, tribal rhythms, psychedelia, and even progish guitar and bass of the kind that Messrs. Howe and Squire of Yes might covert.

From start to finish, nothing is quite what it seems. The title track kicks things off with a frantic workout, marrying a plaintive theme with some particularly outré rock guitar and a how-long-have-you-got list of elements in between. Whether it’s the staccato jazz rhythms welded to harmonic chants and seared shredding on “Heart in a Jar” or the almost conventional balladry of “Twist My Head” that halfway through morphs into something quite deranged and exits on a discordant drone; this is a record to keep you guessing.

The multilingual vocals both enthrall and mystify. Oddly, it’s the English that’s harder to decipher. In a way, the effect is not dissimilar to Yes as words are used for their pure sound value. The lead single, “Fandango Fresh”, is the most accessible track with something close to a sing-along pop chorus, though frontman Kushal Gaya’s vocal delivery of “Sexy worm went and got the bird” (and variations thereon that might include the mention of “bleach your sperm”) makes me think of “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen,which was an unfortunate inclusion on a world’s worst record compilation way back.

Katang is certainly not destined for such ignominy. The record brims with unusual looped melodies, weird vocals, and maybe a few too many musical ideas to give it full definition. Still, it’s an exhilarating ride that engages you, even if briefly threatening to bring on a headache. Interesting and different.

Essential Tracks: “Fandango Fresh” and “Frantic”

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