For those unaware of Zu (and what have you been doing with yourselves, frankly?), they have previously released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings and are an avant garde jazz/noise/mathcore trio who are just as comfortable in face-melting free-jazz hardcore as they are in drawn out experimental doom. It’s every type of heaviness under the sun, but with jazz saxophone solos…

New album Jhator is quite a departure from their previous work, being very drone based and coming out in the UK on House of Mythology

Next month they are coming over to the UK to tour with Jessica Moss (A Silver Mt. Zion violinist) supporting including a spot at Supersonic Festival.

We asked bassist Massimo to pick 3 influential albums, to which he replied “There isn’t any directly conscious musical influence on Jhator. We drew from other places. There was a conceptual reference to Moss Garden by Bowie and Eno for side B, which is based on acoustic Koto and electronics, so it’s hard to escape that reference. And then there was another loose conceptual reference to Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, but more in the sense that a band should be free to explore whatever feels right to them, and it should even be entitled to fail doing so, the process being as much or even more important than the result.

Having said that, the impossible task … 3 life – inspiring albums…”

Coil – Musick to Play in The Dark vol.I & II

Coil have been with me through my whole life having discovered them as a teenager (bought their first album Scatology, didn’t get it at all, kept going back to it, until 2 years later Horse Rotorvator came out and I fell in love). A rare example of a band constantly transforming, touching many styles (from noise to acid-house to cut up to drone to ambient to abstract songs, you name it), yet in their constant morphing they were always leaving an unfathomable “Coil” mark, as if the information they put in to the music transcended even the music itself.

Never, in their entire discography, is there a single moment where one can say, “oh they got this idea from..” or “here they were inspired by..” They were always channelling something personal, visionary, and deeply researched. And because luckily they didn’t have to depend on music to make a living, their choices were untainted by commercial factors.

I chose this collection because it was the moment they turned into their “Moon Musick” phase which produced so many masterpieces in their later years. When a project lasts for so long, people change and music ideally should mirror this and be free to change too. I don’t know how honest it is to just put out what people want from you, milk one idea all your life and get away with it. So I have this little Peter Christopherson altar in my mind, to remind me that it’s only good to take risks, and that it is our right as creative humans to do so.

The fact that so few bands in rock music dare to explore more, once they find out one single thing to say is kind of scary to me. There’s so few examples: Pink Floyd’s first five albums, Talk Talk, and recently, I can think of Ulver. Is this because we set borders and limits inside our minds first? Or because we’re so afraid of criticism? Or because we live in an economical society and don’t even question the laws of the market anymore?

These questions have been in my mind a lot. Even in alternative music there’s a request for uniformity and sameness, and mostly we musicians unconsciously oblige. Coil praised disobedience instead, and in a way that is much more urgent and primal than any punk rock band I know of.

Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

Arvo Pärt has always been a sort of true north for my music compass. Another early find on my musical path . I love all his discography but what he channelled in Tabula Rasa is just so vast. I’ve been listening, and in a way, I’ve been struggling with his music for years.

This album yields the strongest feelings of mystery to me, it just can’t be explained. It is so much more than its rational building factors. My question is always “where does this music come from?” There’s no showing off, he’s not a composer wanting to demonstrate how clever he is, or how much he studied. It is simple, humble, even austere music.

It’s like Pärt reinstates that before being lived simply as entertainment in very recent history, music has been something else, something sacred, possibly for hundreds of thousands of years. That music has been the core of every traditional ritual and spiritual activity since the dawn of humanity, before recorded history. He is not afraid to call his music “sacred” which was a revolutionary move back then in native Estonia and in Russia, where he was banned, and still it’s a scandal somehow. Especially when you leave behind the very simplistic, binary duality theistic/atheist, god/no god, and just feel that his music is pouring down from another, unknown dimension.

For me Tabula Rasa points a finger up in the sky like Saint John the Baptist in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, and reminds me that “There are more things in heaven and Earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

Ben Frost – By The Throat

I was looking to a “recent” album just not to come across as someone that only listens to music from 30 years ago, and came to realise that this is easily my favourite album of the last 10 years, a game changer when it came out.

I think it would be impossible for anyone to pigeonhole his music into a genre. It’s too musical and meticulously written to be simply ambient music, and there’s a combination of electronics layers with acoustic instruments and field recordings. It’s at the same time huge and intimate, very cold yet emotional. Such a visceral piece, every time it makes me feel like I’m free-falling into an abyss at night.

In the last few years there has clearly been a push both from electronic musicians and classical composer to break down genres barriers. A great maverick in this, for me, has been Fausto Romitelli, whose composition An Index Of Metal I warmly recommend to those who don’t know it. But recently, people like Johann Johannson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Mica Levi, ,Christina Vantzou, just to name a few coming to mind now, are tearing down the walls between modern composition, classical, ambient, electronics, using the studio creatively, experimenting with tape loops, processing sounds in every possible way, inspired both by “high art” and by noise rock.

Recently I read an interview with American composer Meredith Monk in which she says she likes “finding places that fall between the cracks of genres or categories”. I feel there are huge cracks appearing everywhere between genres now, entire unexplored canyons which are so vast and full of possibilities, so I’m convinced that this is a very exciting time for music.

Zu tour the UK & Ireland in June at these locations:

(all supported by Jessica Moss (A Silver Mt. Zion violinist)
Thursday 15 June  – Bristol – Exchange

Friday 16 June – London Fields Brewhouse

Saturday 17 June – Birmingham – Supersonic Festival

Sunday 18 June – Brighton – Green Door

Tuesday 20 June – Galway – Róisín Dubh

Thursday 22 June – Belfast – The Limelight

Friday 23 June – Dublin – DBD at The Mezz

Saturday 24 June – Glasgow – Stereo

Sunday 25 June – Newcastle – The Cluny

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