Mike Atkinson

Fuck Buttons / Zun Zun Egui – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Monday September 21.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 22, 2009

Following in the slipstream of acts such as Dirty Projectors and Icy Demons, Bristol-based Zun Zun Egui are the latest band to draw influences from the jazzier end of prog rock. Their playing was fast, tight and intricate, with rhythms that lurched and shifted when you least expected them to. Mauritian band leader Kush’s chiming, trebly, pleasingly academic guitar style was strikingly similar in tone to the Projectors, while also carrying distinct echoes of Yes’s Steve Howe, circa 1972.

African influences also featured heavily, particularly when it came to Kush’s high, ululating vocals, which suggested a familiarity with the work of Mali’s legendary Salif Keita. North African and Congolese elements were also stirred into the brew, along with some of the elegantly funky fluidity of vintage Talking Heads.

It might sound like a strange mix on paper, but these seemingly opposite styles blended together in a way that sounded natural and unforced, leaving you wondering why no-one had attempted the same thing before. Although the set dragged a little towards the end, weighed down by some slightly heavy-handed percussion work, it displayed immense potential and promise.

Headliners Fuck Buttons made significant waves in 2008, with their critically acclaimed debut album Street Horrrsing. A new release, Tarot Sport, is due out next month. Produced by Andrew Weatherall, it signals a shift towards a more recognisably dance-based template, while losing none of the duo’s droney, fuzzed-out sonic experimentation.

Performing for over fifty minutes without a pause, Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power faced each other on stage, studiously hunched over tangled arrays of knobs and wires. Thick, monolithic, slow-moving slabs of sound formed the basic backbone of each track, underpinned by brutally simple downbeats and overlaid with skittering, clattering rhythms. Relentlessly intense, it promised rather more than it delivered.

For underneath all that initially impressive bombast, there was insufficient detail to hold the attention for the full duration of the set. The music remained static and earthbound, leading the imagination to nowhere in particular, and the rhythms were too solid to lift the feet very far off the floor.

That said, the final ten minutes did build to a reasonably effective climax, the tempo quickening and the musical layers expanding into something more fully realised. An abrupt, unexpected ending left you momentarily wondering whether someone had cut the power supply. A dazed silence, then applause at last. But had we been taken on a magical, mesmerising journey, or merely been bludgeoned into submission?

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