Zongo Junction~No Discount (Electric Cowbell Records)
Release Date: July 15th 2014
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Zongo Junction’s No Discount from Jim Thomson of Electric Cowbell Records last week, with the official release to the public on limited edition 150 Gram white vinyl, CD, and for digital download coming on July 15th 2014 . I was expecting some decent world music, but what I received was so very much more. The press release states that “If the Talking Heads produced a Fela Kuti record of Sun Ra’s music, the product would probably sound something a lot like Zongo Junction.” Personally, I was thinking if King Crimson recorded a Dirty Dozen Brass Band record, and then was kicked in the groin by Sonny Rollins, you would have a good idea of what Zongo Junction sounds like. They are an eclectic bunch, and it’s possible that both characterizations of the band can be viewed as truth-each listener will get something different out of the experience.
The band is based out of Brooklyn, N.Y. and they are a 9 piece outfit. The album was recorded to 24 track, two-inch tape at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn NY, then disassembled and polished, piece by piece, by producer Mikey Hart, over a year-long mixing process. It was mastered by all-star engineer Brian Lucey (The Black Keys). The end result is a stunning base of West African grooves powered by Jazz/Funk guitars that urge you to dance. Zongo Junction is currently a major player in NYC’s burgeoning Afrobeat scene, and on No Discount, their second release, it would seem that they are aiming to spread that renown to the rest of the world.
The first song on the album, The Van That Got Away is a heady mix of Jazz infused guitar wizardry, tribal electronic beats, with a bit of ambient vibe throughout-this was a great way to start the album. Each song after that brought something different to the table, such as the Funky, Jazz-klezmer night-sweat grooves of Invented History, and the title track No Discount revs up with a 1970s New Orleans flavored funk piece complete with organ riffs and intricate guitar work reminiscent of Robert Fripp. My Favorite song of the album, 21 Suspects in Medina brought to mind an Elephant Talk era King Crimson, Shoalin Afronauts collision complete with infectious beats, and rhythms that would get any wallflower to dancing uncontrollably. The 5 piece horn section shines throughout the album, with styles ranging from psychedelic, Jazz, Brass Band Funk and even some Klezmer at times.
A good reason for the genre-defying music produced by the band may have a lot to do with the fact that members of the band have toured and recorded with TV On The Radio, Man Man, Antibalas, Vampire Weekend, Easy Star All-Stars, Tune-Yards, The Walkmen, and many more. No Discount brings together the many influences of the 9 members of Zongo Junction, envelopes them in sweet West African rhythms, and off-kilter Afrobeats, producing that rarest of gems…an original sound that defies categorization. Electric Cowbell Records is becoming a label to watch, as they are consistently putting out releases of some of the most original World Music Fusions ever heard in the US, culling the globe’s most exciting music and presenting it to American audiences. Pay attention to Electric Cowbell Records, and do get your hands on Zongo Junction’s No Discount in your favorite format, because it is a fun, and extremely listenable release that almost anyone will enjoy for many reasons.
Zongo Junction will begin touring the US in support of their new album in July. High lights include a return to the West Coast, where they will be joined by Bay Area live band & DJ collective Afrolicious, whose weekly blowouts have become a mainstay of San Francisco’s party scene.
Press page: www.zongojunction.net/epk
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiaSUYUNw24