Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Zu / Spaceways Incorporated - Radiale

Atavistic 2004


This time it's a collision of continents as Chicago trio Spaceways (Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, and Nate McBride) crash head first, fists flying, kicking and screaming straight into Italian Jazz-Rock-Dub trio Zu (Massimo Pupillo, Jacopo Battaglia, and Luca Tommaso Mai). The result is a blast of dark, heavy, rumbling bass, pierced by squealing saxophone and reed playing and rock-orientated, beat-heavy drum bashing.

The two drummers (Battaglia and Drake) and the two bassists (Pupillo and McBride) split the album down the middle as the Zu members take the first half of the album and the Spaceways crew the second. Luca Tommaso Mai on Saxophone and Ken Vandermark on Reeds are the two main players each vying for space throughout, launching into at times aggressive melodies trying to outdo the other in a constant game of push and shove often turning into wonderful cacophony if at times a little too brief like towards the end of 'Thanatocracy.'

The last thing I heard Pupillo play on was a new Peter Brötzmann recording from the Bimhaus in Amsterdam and there's actually some strong similarity between the two sessions - though Radiale is certainly less intense. His bass rings out like a buzz saw at times finding a little room now and again to really stand out as Battaglia pounds his drum with military like precision. On 'Pharmakon' Battaglia builds up slowly, maintaining a steady beat though at times I did find his playing a little too predictable following a strong rock-style structure, but when it works it works really well and allows Mai and Vandermark to show off their skills in the foreground.

As you'd expect the second half of the album with the switch around of bassist and drummer is a more jazz-orientated affair, especially Drake's drumming, which never ceases to impress me. McBride who I don't really know that much about keeps a steady rhythm without driving as much as Pupillo (whose playing is definitely beginning to grow on me).

The second half also features a cover of that Art Ensemble classic - 'Theme de Yoyo' which seemed to me to emphasise the importance of the vocals in the original, though the breakdown is still strong and Mai and Vandermark add about 10 seconds (a little short for my liking) of impressive improvising in the middle. And finishing with the Sun Ra cover I think works really well. Again this is a song that takes its time to get going, but allows the players, especially Drake and McBride more freedom to improvise and set the scene until about half way through the familiar rhythm kicks in and everyone follows suit, rolling happily into its almost Krautrock-esque jam band finale.


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