There is nothing more terrifying than a band attempting to fuse genres. Ordinarily, the result is an ungodly unfocused mess that does nobody any favours. If the term “fusion” alone doesn’t strike fear into your heart (particularly if the word “Jazz” appears in the same sentence) then you’re built of sterner stuff than most. Or have the ears of a cloth dog.
Spanish Duo ZA!’s approach to genres is to pretty much ignore the fact that anybody decided to define various strands of music at all. It’s an admirable approach and one that finds them not just knocking over the walls that separate Hip Hop from Rock, or Synthpop from Afrobeat but to carpet bomb them as they fly overhead in a dance powered aeroplane.
Just a few weeks into 2016 and it’s fair to say that Loloismo is probably one of the most eclectic and free-spirited records that will be released this year. More importantly, far from being a muddleheaded mess, there’s a drive behind these songs that holds it all together, no matter how ridiculous it all gets. The drive comes primarily from the chanted vocal lines that grace these songs. The communal act of singing (the term Loloismo is derived from football chants) and the unity it brings is central to the album functioning. The chants and vocal interjections are the centre around which these twitching, instinctive jams revolve. Without them, the album would not be as effective as it is.
Opening up with La Maquinaria Está Engrasada, ZA! quickly get their cards on the table. Starting life as a percussion session in a cutlery draw the band wastes no time in expanding out and soon throw the kitchen sink into the mix. Hefty synth-bass enters the fray, then the chants begin, a brief guitar interjection follows, and then electronic glitch meltdown. After a quick re-boot, the band begins to feed Hendrix and a church organ through a mincer, breaking them down into organic binary code. At first it seems too frantic to make sense of, but before long, it seems insane that all songs don’t sound like this, or seek to be as free and inventive. Badulake is a slightly more straightforward affair. It retains the clanking percussion, but leans more heavily on synth-pop and doesn’t take nearly as many diversions as the opening salvo. Empatando calms things down significantly, by ZA!’s standards at least. What begins life as a tranquil chill out, slowly evolves to sound like the Café Del Mar under siege from a rogue mariachi band and an errant bongo player.
Mundo Estrella meanwhile goes for the heavier end of the spectrum, coming on like Lightning Bolt, whilst Sancha explores post-hardcore territory and could quite easily have been plucked from Fugazi’s Instrument soundtrack. The title track is by far the most simple song on the album, but then as the request for a big circle pit at the song’s midpoint suggests, for just a moment the band are interested in big, dumb, pleasure. The chants are to the fore as are the frantic blasts of simple punk riffs, just as you’d expect. It might not be complex, but it does the job perfectly. Mixing things up further is Don Autoleyendas which layers up trumpet and hip-hop, like the punk of the title track, its basic arrangement and attack mean that it doesn’t fail like so many forays into hip-hop, in fact its authenticity means it’s one of the stand out tracks on the album. The chaotic noise of ¡Aquí Huele A Assufre!, which brings things full circle and ends the album in much the same way as it begin in a cacophony of glorious but strangely unified noise. Loloismo might be derived from football hooligan culture, but in the hands of ZA! terrace chanting has achieved a wonky state of grace, albeit shot with occasional outbursts of violence.