Album Reviews

Zongamin – Zongamin

(XL) UK release date: 24 March 2003

Zongamin - Zongamin

Zogamin is 29-year-old Susumu Mukai, a Japanese export to London, bringing his weird, sub 80’s electronica with him.

This debut LP, issued by XL Recordings starts simple and formulaic, but effective enough; dirty guitar and bass riff over churning dance beats, sounding something between fast Joy Division and a western film track. Pleasant, but not exactly inspirational. The second track, Serious Trouble, hints of a progression and I can see where he’s coming from, post punk, somewhat cheesy funkdom interspersed with droning catchy dance hooks, great for the Old St nightclubs where I’m sure he’s king of cool.

The influences Zogamin cites are Siouxsie and the Banshees, Prince and Miles Davis and whilst the later two cannot be heard, the ’80s influence is rife, and I hear Kraftwerk and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, but those bands sounded dated then and without some serious modernistic makeover, it still sounds tired, with synth sounds I hoped I never hear again frankly.

Street Surgery 2 enters with freeform jazzist guitar rumblings, and then hints at Indian folk music meanderings, more experimental and definitely more interesting, but then it evolves into an irritating backward loop. Painless starts salsa disco and then evolves into some kind of scary ambient tune, great to dance to. Then it stops and reverts to a middle eight kind of thing that neither inspires dancing, nor inspires.

Double Dossier starts dirty funky enough, and I get a grip on the trip, riff-looped scussy bass under a mean sweaty stutter and I hear the appeal of the Old St trendies. Again with Whiplash, a Tarantinoesque hook, all rock n roll guitar swirls and the only vocal on the album, a minimal staccato shout of ‘whiplash’ at opportune moments.

A whistling riff begins J Shivers Theme, over some simple under-mixed tinny guitar sounds, calling Adam and the Ant’s Clint Eastwood in from the hills to play on the merry go round, but its just too whimsy and unexplored, going nowhere but round and round. Trespasser starts and continues for some time, just noise, a bad dream day that will not end, and then you think it has, as it loom booms into a heavy bass noise which excites and pulls me in only to revert to the disappointing white noise turf.

Tunnel Music, apt title, is pure unadulterated plunk, like funk only plunk! ’70s style scheese but without any stringy bits, UNTIL! a mid-section morph grabs you with its samba like beat and I’m begging for the promise to be realised.

Mummies, the final track intrigues with its haunting four-note xylophone swirl atmospheric and hypnotic, but it’s a short track and just as I’m really entering its shadow, it stops.

This album is trying desperately to be inventive and I can feel the appeal of Zongamin, and sense where he wants to go with his mish mash of rock n roll, electronica, dance vibes and cheese. But he starts the story, experimenting with words and hue, but somehow looses the plot and cannot evolve it further, which is a shame because the music hints at something that you really want it to realise, but shame, it just doesn’t quite get there.

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