Zun Zun Egui

COSMO GODFREE enjoys the enigmatic, genera-busting, psychedelic rockers strut their stuff in controlled chaos.

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The Portland Arms, Wednesday 26th October, £6

[rating: 4/5]

It?s hard to believe that a band as energetic as Zun Zun Egui are the same foursome who shuffle politely onstage. But this Bristol outfit is red hot.

Tonight sees some real virtuoso guitar playing from lead singer Kushal Gaya. Never content to stay in one place for too long, his fingers dart about the fretboard with wild abandon. Octo-limbed drummer Matthew Jones splits his time between battering the hell out of his kit and providing the complex rhythms that Zun Zun Egui?s songs flourish on. All of the spindly, intricate patterns on show bring to mind early Foals, or even Battles, but here it comes across as more fun than cerebral.

Despite all the ways that ZZE draw on a jazz-like spirit of improvisation, it’s obvious how carefully structured their songs are, and how much rehearsal must have been needed to nail the constant tempo and time signature changes, which they do very well. A lot of craft has gone into these songs. This does provide a slight downside – with this knowledge, there’s never that visceral excitement you get from seeing something veer so close to coming completely off the rails.


Zun Zun Egui – SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artist

In terms of sound, ZZE essentially play psychedelic rock music with an experimental mindset. There?s a distinct tropical flavour to many of the songs, and part of this lies in the fact that the band don?t just sing in English – there?s some French in the mix, as well as unidentifiable yelps and barks that don?t belong to any language group. They might have run the risk of turning into one of those groups like Vampire Weekend who deify their wornout copy of Paul Simon?s Graceland, but to their credit, ZZE?s approach is far less superficial than just appropriating some typically ?world music? signifiers. They seem to coming at it from a similar angle to a band like Dirty Projectors, but with more of an emphasis on the rock side.

And damn can they rock out when they want to. With his feet changing pedal settings almost as quickly as his hands are playing guitar, Gaya is capable of busting out some searing solos reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr at their best, suddenly launching into them without warning or build-up. Keyboardist Yoshino Shigihara is also crucial to the band’s sound, fleshing out the tone and giving the guitar more space to work with.

Recent single Fandango Fresh is a clear highlight tonight – dropping about halfway through the set, the lyrics are predictably bonkers (including something about a sexy worm?), and there’s yet another brilliant guitar solo from Gaya. Cowboy is a proper post-punk kneesup, and set-closer Twist My Head showcases the band’s knack for vocal harmonies.


Zun Zun Egui – Cowboy (Live at the European Culture Congress 2011)

The band’s debut album Katang came out the other week after a run of EPs last year, and its artwork provides the perfect visual representation of how these guys sound – like fireworks being let off in a coral reef, like an explosion at the Crayola factory, it’s a technicolor riot from start to finish. The cover was designed by Shigihara, and the album itself was produced by bassist Luke Mosse.

Clearly a talented bunch of individuals then, but a band whose skills align perfectly onstage to create a fantastic live show. Well worth checking out.