Album Review: NO ZU - Afterlife

29 January 2016 | 9:56 am | Tyler McLoughlan

"Continued exploration should certainly occur on the nearest dancefloor, stat."

James Chance, legendary figure of New York's no wave movement of the '70s, is a fan of NO ZU, and considering that the renowned saxophonist barely has time for anything released beyond 1980, it's high praise indeed for the Melbourne outfit.

A largely instrumental affair filled with brass, synth and captivating percussion, Afterlife is the sequel to 2012's debut album Life on which the eight-piece further explore the self-coined heat beat sound that is a huge amount of fun — often quite sexy, though always smooth as hell. Buoyed by vibrant percussion, coloured with Middle Eastern melodies and given structure with the repeated refrain of a chunky wall of classy horns, lead single Spirit Beat is a sassy NO ZU intro, and a more hectic companion to the relaxed South American vibes of Raw Vision. Elsewhere the synth on Hi Gloss (Manicure) would well please Vogue-era Madonna. Selective in their use of non-traditional male and female vocals, the outfit prefers to employ call-and-response, chanting and pitch-shifting techniques that feel like instinctive first reactions to the music.

There are so many ideas and influences coursing through this record, though it manages to be an extraordinarily cohesive melding of world beats and melodies, disco, club and funk, with a shared spirit of experimentation and innovation seeping through. Afterlife is accomplished, fun and fascinating on first listen, yet it continues to reveal itself in deeper ways, and continued exploration should certainly occur on the nearest dancefloor, stat.