Zu @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Saturday 17 August 2019


Witnessed by Jason Guest

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the release of Zu’s classic Carboniferous. For those that haven’t heard it, do so now, here. Of all the lunatic jazz ear-bashing noisy metal experimental avant-garde albums released in the last decade that this writer has subjected his noise holes to, this rates as one of if not the best. It may be about as far from an easy listen as you can get but it’s far from an unpleasant listen. An album well worth celebrating, it boasts appearances by Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne and FNM/Fantomas/Mr Bungle/many-manic-nutjob-bands’ Mike Patton, and is intense and heavy and every listen compels another. And so here we are here, in the depths of The (always-threatening-to-but-never-actually-closing, thankfully) Flapper awaiting an ear-bashing like no other.

Compared to the usual gig where the stage is crammed with equipment – the drums hemmed in by the guitarist’ and bassist’s gear while living some space for the vocalist – tonight’s stage looks pretty barren: drums at the back, a huge amp/cab either side, and plenty space for a vocalist to dance and sing and posture the night away. But there’s very little dancing when it comes to Zu’s music. Nor posturing for that matter. What we get from Zu is an incredible drummer as fluent with the kit as he is heavy – and loud, a baritone saxophonist as commanding as the instrument is unfeasibly huge – and loud, and a bassist armed with riffs as disfigured as they are melodic and chords as crushing as they are mangled – and loud, all thrust through an array of effects. Together, what they produce is an experience beyond words.

With Massimo Pupillo’s bass sometimes leading the charge with battered and bruised riffs and sometimes sitting back in the groove with Jacopo Battaglia’s fevered and controlled drumming, Luca T. Mai’s baritone sax does what you’d think sax shouldn’t, or couldn’t, or just plain doesn’t, seeing how this trio works is a remarkable experience. This is a band that has a distinct knowledge and control of music and of how to make music – and noise – work for them. Grinding its way through many a mutation, the sounds they made were nothing less than monstrous in their beauty and mountainous in their sheer imposing intensity. That we were able to experience this at such close proximity makes it one of the most memorable gigs this year. With but a few months of 2019 remaining, tonight’s show is a contender for the best gig of the year.