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ZU

RIO/Avant-Prog • Italy


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Zu biography
Formed in Ostia (Rome), Italy in 1997

The Band Zu comes from a deep Italian Prog/Avant-Garde feel, compiling the ideas from composing and theatrical play. The trio consists of: Luca Mai - baritone Saxophone, Massimo Pupillo - bass, and Jacapo Battaglia - drums. 13 albums into their carreer the trio got to tour with the Fantomas-Melvins supergroup. With their genre inculding hardcore punk, noise rock, and free jazz, the band was sure to turn heads and be innovative. Even John Zorn complimented the band by saying, "You have created a powerful and expressive music that totally blows away what most bands do these days". Zu has 11 cd's along with 2 splits.

Bio written by The Shf (fungusucantkill)

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Cortar TodoCortar Todo
Ipecac Recordings 2015
$9.16
$6.76 (used)
CarboniferousCarboniferous
IPECAC RECORDINGS 2015
$72.40
$11.98 (used)
JhatorJhator
House of Mythology 2018
$12.40
$26.80 (used)
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ZU discography


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ZU top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 15 ratings
Bromio
1999
2.66 | 16 ratings
Igneo
2002
3.89 | 9 ratings
Zu & Spaceways Incorporated: Radiale
2004
3.63 | 8 ratings
The Way Of The Animal Powers
2005
3.50 | 6 ratings
Zu & Mats Gustafsson: ‎How To Raise An Ox
2005
4.17 | 6 ratings
Zu & Nobukazu Takemura: Identification With The Enemy - A Key To The Underworld
2007
3.99 | 73 ratings
Carboniferous
2009
3.00 | 3 ratings
Cortar Todo
2015
3.80 | 6 ratings
Jhator
2017
4.00 | 1 ratings
Zu93: Mirror Emperor
2018

ZU Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
Live In Hellsinki
2003
3.00 | 3 ratings
Rai Sunawachi Koe Wo Hassu
2006

ZU Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ZU Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ZU Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Il Teatro degli Orrori + Zu (split)
2008

ZU Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Jhator by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 6 ratings

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Jhator
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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.

 Carboniferous by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.99 | 73 ratings

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Carboniferous
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars ZU is an atypical power trio emerging from Rome, Italy in the 90s delivering some energetic and unconventional hybrid music. I was totally unfamiliar with this group before their 11th studio album CARBONIFEROUS and I have not heard any other albums before this but from what I have read they have taken on a more heavy and distorted take on their RIO / Avant-prog meets math rock music. There are a several groups this band reminds me of. They have a musical delivery approach like the avant-jazz French group Jean Louis but the heaviness and chord changes have a Fantômas feel as well which is particularly true on the two vocals tracks that have Mike Patton making a cameo appearance. This could be due to the fact they toured with Fantômas and Melvins in 2006. ZU also has a groove on some tracks similar to another strange band called Chrome Hoof. This is especially noticeable on the first track "Ostia."

Any way you slice it ZU is an RIO band in structure with an avant-jazz-metal veneer consisting of the unconventional trio of instruments that includes bass, drums and baritone saxophone. We do get a couple guest guitarists lending a hand on "Chthonian" and "Obsidian" but Massimo Pupillo's extremely heavy fuzzy bass pretty much delivers as much distortion as the music can handle and Luca Mai's sax playing takes the place of the traditional guitar. He handles rhythmic duties for the most part but also contributes some sizzling solos that bring John Zorn to mind. Jacopo Battaglia has a jazz drummer's method of dancing around the strange chord progressions and contributes more of a complementary sound than an expected backbone of the band. The musicians spend their time weaving around each other in a way that makes it hard to focus on any one particular instrument that stands out but there are times when solos are thrown in.

This music is highly addictive. It was love at first listen for me but it only got better the more I listened to it. The band makes full use of tones and distortion as a key part of the musical structure and the musicianship is top-notch. By blending various aspects of math rock, noise rock, punk, jazz, grindcore and a touch of repetitive drone doom at times, they have created a very intricate and disciplined style of music that doesn't come off as being as complex as it is. A true treasure tucked away under the various categories of RIO, avant-prog, avant-garde metal, or free jazz, but nomenclature aside it is simply a unique sound that fans of adventurous, energetic and unorthodox fusion will find most satisfying. 4.5 rounded up

 Zu & Spaceways Incorporated: Radiale by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.89 | 9 ratings

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Zu & Spaceways Incorporated: Radiale
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Really interesting album of collaboration between Italian free-avant trio ZU and Chicago-based and reeder Ken Vandermark-led Spaceways Inc. Part of compositions are free improvs, but some come from free-funk classics, as Parliament's "Trash A-Go-Go" , the Art Ensemble's "Theme de Yoyo" or Sun Ra's "We Travel the Spaceways" and "Space Is the Place".

It's great to hear how sound two experimental bands from different roots playing together free improvs and great classics. Doesn't the sound is radically different - it's still same free jazz improvisation based music, but for everyone familiar with ZU original works strong influence from American band's music shows the former trio in new light. In fact, music became more jazzy, often - just pure free jazz, and Ken Vandermark's sax soloing is more funky and far not so brutal, as Luca Mai's bariton's.

From another hand, Italian's more heavy and dark, rock influenced sound with distorted bass and a aggressive drumming did bring some modern avant flavor for free jazz sound of American musicians. Most interesting is still the second part of album, where both teams working hard on free funk standards.

Recommended album for ZU fans, it shows really interesting more jazzy influenced side of the trio.

 Rai Sunawachi Koe Wo Hassu  by ZU album cover Live, 2006
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Rai Sunawachi Koe Wo Hassu
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Second Italian leading avant prog band's Zu live album was recorded in Paris in March 2005 and released on obscure Japanese label Macaroni Records. All the material comes from one day's recording and contains mainly energetic and dark improves.

Zu's trademark sound is bariton sax free improves filling all the space and there you will hear it plenty. Happily, on live release trio had even more space for explosive jamming and unlimited improvs, so this album is full of both.

I really like Luca Mai's low tenor sax fast and sharp improvs sound, rhythm sections do a great support to him, so believe me - the music is noisy there! Not the kind of brutal Japanese noisy hardcore or radical Naked City's one, but similar Italian version of it - still more rounded, a bit more melodic (if it's possible to speak about melodies in such music at all) and not such radically cacophonous. But I am speaking about nuances inside of the same musical genre - no special structure,order or pre-recorded composition could be found there in this music.

The main value of this release is great musicianship level of all three musicians, excellent sax fast and angular soloing, noisy and heavy support from rhythm section and very specific free sound atmosphere of the concert. If you like such music, this album is really interesting one for you, for unprepared listener the reaction could be quite unpredictable.

 Carboniferous by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.99 | 73 ratings

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Carboniferous
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars When you think of a "Power Trio" you usually imagine bass, drums and guitar or bass, drums and organ right ? Well this Italian band hits us with bass, drums and sax. The sax is disturbed I might add. Hey this is Rio / Avant so that's not so surprising. I've read some complaints about the sound quality, mainly because there is often so much distortion it comes off simply as being noise. It's not pleasant. I personally can't get into most bands that I would classify as noisy, it's just not my scene. If it wasn't for the last two tracks I would have a hard time giving this 3 stars.

"Ostia" opens with pounding drums and low end noise. It picks up then we get some dissonant sax a minute in.Then it gets even noisier.Themes are repeated half way through. "Chthonian" turns noisier and heavier before a minute. A lot of distortion here. It picks up 2 minutes in. I feel a headache coming on. It settles 5 minutes in thankfully but it's not for long. "Carbon" features this distorted beat. It settles before 1 1/2 minutes and some weird sax joins in. "Beata Viscera" is better.The drums and bass sound fairly normal as the sax joins in.

"Erinys" has some killer drumming in it. Too much noise though. "Soulympics" has a good rhythm as creepy vocals join in. "Axion" is loud, dark and noisy. I like the sax 3 minutes in with that powerful under-current. "Mimosa Hostilis" is uptempo. A repetitive beat before 2 minutes comes in. Screaming sax late. "Obsidian" is an excellent track. I like the sound after 3 minutes. It ends in a spacey way. "Orc" opens with atmosphere as different sounds come and go including birds, water, dogs and so on. Sounds are building 2 1/2 minutes in. It settles back to a very atmospheric mood to end it.

I'd love to hear an album full of tunes like the last two tracks.This is just too noisy for me.

 Carboniferous by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.99 | 73 ratings

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Carboniferous
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by The Sleepwalker
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Zu is a three-piece band making music bred from the experimental combination of several genres including, among others, technical metal and free-jazz. This blend of styles creates a mind-blowing and intense sound more menacing and striking than most music I've ever heard. As I write this review, Carboniferous is the band's most recent creation.

Notable is the somewhat unconventional lead here, which is Luca Mai's baritone saxophone that proves to be very suitable to this kind of heavy music, performing some fierce shrieks and deep, heavy growls. The rhythm section as well is important for the distinctive sound created here. It's a very strong one, consisting of Jacopo Battaglia's aggressive drumming and Massimo Pupillo's bass playing, which often has a thick sound and frequently is distorted. Apart from playing the drums, Jacopa Battaglia also is responsible for the electronics and even some mellotron, that manage to give the album a somewhat amospheric feel.

Zu's intense sound can already be heard in the first riff of the heavy opener "Ostia", with it's distorted bass and dissonant saxophone playing, reminding one of free-jazz. The majority of music on the album is in this vein, dynamic and intense, though it still maintains a diverse feel and keeps me completely interested even after the many times I've listened to it. Also worth mentioning are the collaborations with other musicians on this album, among them Mike Patton's vocal performance on "Soulolympics" and King Buzzo's (Melvins) guitar playing on "Chthonian".

After the many times I've listened to Carboniferous it still manages to amaze me. This might have something to do with the energetic and intense sound Zu creates here, which is an unique and distictive one. I'd recommend this album to those who might enjoy a combination of the dissonance of free-jazz and the monstrous power of a heavy rhythm section.

 Igneo by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.66 | 16 ratings

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Igneo
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars When listening to this Zu album, I thought what their music is like. First influence is very clear - it's John Zorn. Not Masada, or Filmworks, but more Painkiller or Naked City. Sounds attractive?

Italian trio from Rome is playing very unusual music for Italy. I don't mean RIO/avant in whole, but I am speaking about THEIR kind of experimental music. We all awaiting high level of musicality from any Italian band. There is wrong example on this album. They are playing free-jazz heavily mixed with punk, hardcore, noise and whatever else you want.

Musicians are all highest class, plus they have special American guests on few tracks: Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Ken Vandermark (sax). Brutal combination of punkish drums attacks and brass cacophonic solos instead of soloing guitars. Sound games as well.

For sure this kind of music is known. John Zorn in some his works demonstrated great success in this field. But the big difference is musicality. Zorn's genius bring musicality even in his playing noise and chaos. There you wouldn't find musicality. Almost no traces.

Is it so bad? Don't think so. This album is radical experimental work in the hottest field of modern jazz - punk-free-jazz. And some moments there are interesting enough. But - I am saying interesting, no way great. There are many interesting figures, experimenting with similar music ( and I like Mats Gustafsson or Barry Guy really more), but very a few of them can produce music, not pure experimental sound.

Radical experimental album, could be in interest of free-jazz and experimental jazz lovers. Can shock those thinking that musical composition should have melody, structure or any other form.

 Carboniferous by ZU album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.99 | 73 ratings

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Carboniferous
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Jadittir

4 stars I was out looking for the upgrade cable for my middle-aged servant Sennheiser HD-650 headphone on the internet. The cable manufacturer named Zu Cable. I, instead, randomly clicked and found this album. I decided to check it out.

To my pleasant surprise, the band plays Avant-garde jazz with a serious flavor of metal music. Without guitar distortion, they use a distorted keyboard synthesizer and distorted bass to create a heavy sound. Incorporated with wild Saxophone, complex drum and wild idea of jazz metal, they sound quite serious and avant.. Thick layer of heavy sound with avant jazz component-- pretty much like John Zorn on steroid. So rich with complexity and yet as dark as post metal style. The distorted synth and bass play out like heavy guitar riff. The musicians are all fantastic. I love it!

If you are a fan of John Zorn type of music. This album is the must. Superb!

 Bromio by ZU album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.92 | 15 ratings

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Bromio
Zu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by fungusucantkill

4 stars This is the first album put out by Zu and personally its one of their best. Their blend of Speed Jazz with Henry Cow and Frank Zappa would be for anyone who loves Avant Garde Music. As a bass player, i listened to Massimo Pupillo very closely and i was pretty amazed at what he does. He blends with the rest of the band and doesnt overshadow the incredibly talented sax player, Luca T Mai. Zu pleases crowds. Their tour on this album consisted of a broken down mini van (as do all first timers) and lost of good memories.

Key tracks on the album are Zu Circus, Testa di Cane, and Erotomane. This is indeed one of their best works and its sure not to dissapoint. 4.5 stars.

Thanks to avestin for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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