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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Zed-U - Night Time On the Middle Passage (Babel, 2009) ***

Zed-U is a young British band, with Shabaka Hutchings on clarinet and tenor, Neil Charles on bass and Tom Skinner on drums and keyboards. Fans of Jim Black's Alasnoaxis will surely like their music, as they use all the post-editing possibilities of the studio to double the sound of their instruments, alter it and make collages with the electronics. And the results on their debut album are quite good, with unobtrusive music, that gently flows over rock-ish rhythms, with the clear and soft tone of the sax or clarinet negotiating the nice themes. Yet as is often the case with first albums, the band wants to demonstrate the breadth of their skills, and that results in a pot-pourri of stylistic try-outs that unfortunately harm the overall coherence of the album. Up to the end of the third track, till about fifteen minutes into the album, I was stunned by their voice, and the quality of their musical concept. But then comes the Kraftwerk cover "Showroom Dummies", destroying my enthusiasm. Same thing with "Chief", with its heavy rock-beat, and although not bad in itself, musically it belongs to another record or another band. "Phone Tap" too, with its too explicit rhyhtm goes more into lounge jazz territory. That's the bad news. But all the other tracks, or about fifty minutes of the album, is truly excellent: and apart from the free blowfest on "Surman Part 2", it is subtle, soft and gentle, sensitive and rhythmic, light-footed and a little dark too, with a real urban atmosphere in it. If they can stick to that concept, and expand on it, this band surely is promising.

Listen to an excerpt from "Roki"

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef