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Zu - Jhator CD (album) cover

JHATOR

Zu

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.80 | 6 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars The Italian band ZU is one of those bands that is entirely pointless to categorize because throughout their two decade career they have fully embraced their diverse palette with an extra emphasis on experimentalism. For the most part though, this trio of Massimo Farjon Pupillo on bass, guitar, piano, synth, Tomas Järmyr on percussion and Luca T. Mai on baritone sax, electronics and vocals hasn't strayed too overly far from the amorphous free-form drone compositions with extreme metal clothing that incorporates harsh guitar distortion, heavy percussion and hellish Zorn inspired sax attacks. While totally unique in any regard, ZU share their chameleonesque genre shapeshifting once again as they continue to go Ulver on us and completely throw a curve ball with their 15th release (counting the collaborations) JHATOR which retains the meditative practice that they are famous for but drops the aggressive brutality that typically supports it and opts for a more relaxing and contemplative soundscape.

The title JHATOR is a Tibetan practice of sky burial funeral practice of placing a corpse on top of a mountain to decompose and allow the natural world to reclaim the elements that compose the body. This "excarnation" of allowing a body to be scavenged by carrion birds and natural bacteria is practiced extensively in areas such as Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Mongolia and Bhutan. This album contains two expansive tracks that sound as if they are the soundtrack for such practices as the moods and styles fit the bill perfectly. Unlike the more metal meets jazz oriented albums that ZU is famous for, this one straddles the line of post-rock type sprawling soundscapes that incorporate ambient synthesized atmospheres with experimental electronic simulations of animals, spirits and natural events accompanied by traditional Eastern instruments such as the Japanese koto (21 stringed versions as well as the 17 string bass koto), gongs as well as other unorthodox instrumentation such as a hurdy gurdy, amplified tuba and Flugabone which all requires an extra eight guest musicians to pull off.

It's almost as if the band members went on a spiritual retreat to the Himalayas somewhere and gained inspiration in the most profound ways as the sprawling meditational tracks perfectly convey the message in pure instrumental form. The first track "Jhator: Sky Burial" opens with gong strikes followed by an electronic insect swarm of some sort that signifies the inevitable return to the Earth and the ultimate recycling of the corporeal being into the natural systems that surround us. The build up of the over 21 minute track is tantamount to the most apocalyptic sounding Godspeed You! Black Emperor material with a dreadful drone effect characterized by the subtle flux of the instruments in tandem. The second track "The Dawning Moon Of The Mind" signifies the decomposition stage and utilizes its twenty minute plus existence with a darkened droning synth background with what sound like distant angelic forces mediating and chanting while the electronic noises sputter around. The exotic instruments break in from time to time to offer ceremonial intermissions as the otherworldly dirge continues.

Despite having been around for two decades and known for not only dipping into the metal, jazz and progressive rock worlds with their cross-genre skipping eclecticism, ZU still remains a bit under the radar as being slightly too off-kilter for the average genre dweller. ZU is far too overreaching to be easily pegged into any of those genres and with JHATOR, they completely reveal completely new aspects of themselves as they effortlessly navigate the expansive narrative soundscapes that convey the message of the ancient Tibetan ritual. This album totally eschews any metal aggressiveness, any jazz syncopation outbursts or progressive rock excesses. JHATOR is exclusively grounded in soundtrack type epic sprawling tracks that simulate post-rock but come off more as deep tribal ambient type music that finds inspiration from ancient wisdom rather than from modern day society. This one is almost like a musical painting where each note is equivalent to a paintbrush stroke that exhibits its effect for an allotted period of time. Strange and hauntingly beautiful, JHATOR is a bizarre experiment from ZU that works out remarkably well.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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