Afterlife, the second album by Melbourne collective NO ZU, is a party. A very well thought out and expertly delivered party, designed to hit you deep in the pleasure glands, as the music shifts and reveals its changing layers.
What’s contained is an especially funky take on worldbeat, that 1980’s subgenre that took African grooves, Latin percussion, and matched them with the horns, synths and drum sounds that were popular in that decade. NO ZU’s version also incorporates dub remixing techniques and club beats, a beautiful mash up of sounds that show a meeting point where pop, funk and dub meet dance.
The tracks are built around simple grooves and insistent kick drums and then topped with layers of synths, pitched and chanted vocals, percussion, gated snares and horns. These elements are added and removed throughout, keeping the listener’s interest constantly piqued, with focus remaining always on the beat.
The eight-piece group are the brainchild of Nicolaas Oogjes, whose adventurousness can be heard throughout this 45 minutes. Oogjes has worked the NO ZU brand under different band/semi-solo incarnations since 2007 and describes his music as Heat Beat – a tongue-in-cheek attempt at creating his own genre descriptor. However, LCD Soundystem, Talking Heads, Brian Ferry, Liquid Liquid and Primal Scream’s influence can all be heard here.
There is a variety in the mix too – After Lifestyle exhibits the Latin influence more explicitly, and closer Zeus Zam, with its pulsing rhythm and pitched male vocal strongly recalls Yello’s Oh Yeah, fondly remembered for its use in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
UI YIA UIA is built around a simple, loping synth bass line and kick, but the hand drums, weird synth effects and vocals build and descend, creating moments of anticipation as well as those of genuine euphoria, the track reaching it’s peak in a blast of horns and wild sax soloing.
This is powerful, funky stuff, true believers.
Originally published in Beat Magazine on 27/01/2016. View article.