In the broad church of the Rare Noise roster’s progressive new music, Budapest-based trio Jü distinguish themselves as looser and more rhythmically orientated than many. They’re certainly don’t operate with the compacted intensity of some of those I’ve previously favoured for review, cf. Slobber Pup, Merzbow/Gustafsson/Pándi, or any of the recordings featuring saxophonist Kjetil Møster, with whom the group collaborated on their 2014 debut, Jü Meets Møster.
In distinction to many of their nu-progressive contemporaries, Jü operate much as Santana once did, blending blues rock with jazz fusion and experimental elements, but Jü’s more nuanced and purely instrumental approach lacks Santana’s populist streak and their influences are Afro-Brazilian rather than Latin, and with all the variegated influences of first-wave psychedelia and fusion well and truly assimilated with the heavier elements of later musical developments.
The first sound on “Lady Klimax” is that of an amplified kalimba (thumb piano), introducing a feverish maracatu rhythm shot through with bubbling electric bass and distorted Congotronics-aping electric guitar. But after 4:30 that intense rhythm’s dropped, and replaced by a slower, moodier, passage of sabs-style riffing that surges into a propulsive, guitar-led psych rock groove and comes to a tight climax on the ninth minute. The cut serves as the band’s calling card.
Møster returns to guest on just one piece, the lovely, languid “Partir”, playing nuanced saxophone in tender counterpoint to some really beautiful playing by guitarist Ádám Mészáros and the subtle, not to say anonymous electronics of Bálint Bolcsó, also guesting. The ad hoc quintet’s collective sensitivity is beguiling, and it’s blasted aside by the bashed-out pell-mell and staccato rocker “My Heart is Somewhere Else”.
That and “Summa” are the only cuts to reflect Mészáros’ assertion that John Zorn (Naked City and Moonchild) and Last Exit were big influences. “They had a kind of punk appeal that I think of as more physical,” he’s said, “and we are trying to do that in our own music.”
On Jü’s “Summa” bass and bass drumming maintain a steady, voluble thrumming while Mészáros shreds, with gnarly breakdowns barely disrupting a driving momentum ahead of the slip into ambient bass guitar outro; but there’s no hint here of Zorn-esque schizophrenic disjunction.
Those harder cuts give the album welcome and well programmed shots of adrenaline, but Jü are more rewarding when they are more contemplative.
The initially nebulous “Jimma Blue” takes its time settling into a relaxed rhythm around an unspooling electric guitar line that cross-fades to a bass-driven motoric groove that pushes to a climax. At 12:36 this is the longest cut but in keeping with brief percussive interludes such as the gentle “Socotra” and the ruggedly playful “Keltner”.
A slab of heavy doom metal grind titled “Mongrel Mangrove” is another surprising, and surprisingly effective late twist, coming just before the album’s short outro, which features bassist Ernö Hock playing sintir-like bass ukulele.
On balance it’s a fine, eclectic set, coherent for all its variety, that marks Jü as ones to watch.
Ádám Mészáros – guitars, kalimba, percussion; Ernö Hock – bass guitar, bass ukulele, percussion; András Halmos – drums, bells, kalimba + Kjetil Møster – saxophones; Bálint Bolcsó – electronics.
Buy Summa direct from Rare Noise.