When Ornette Coleman decided The Shape Of Jazz To Come as a title for his upcoming album he had a precise idea of that shape; the form of jazz was changing because it needed to change. At that time the one of Jazz was the field where all the main protagonists were conducing a deep and very serious research on the boundaries of the genre. This is one of the main reasons why Ornette Coleman never liked to be defined as Free Jazz although he has even called one of his best albums that way. The main problem, the main question was: what’s the shape that jazz is going to have in the future? What is jazz after all? Where is the line that divides research from utter experimentation?
If you take a look at what is being called Jazz today you can certainly remark that the genre has – because of the main link between improvisation and experimentation – slowly invaded all the other kinds of music. One of the main reasons is obviously that experimentation more and more intended as total improvisation; the definition of test under controlled conditions and circumstances is by the time becoming obsolete. Free Jazz/Fire Music/Free Music/The New Thing used to be something that only people who had studied for real could master and eventually broaden – As many if not all the best Jazz and Free Jazz musicians you know rehearsed barely impossible music styles as Hard bop.
The second reason is that the punk and then metal attitude imposed, from a certain point of view, to play without having any academic background. This was both the result of a compelling demand for a full democratization of music and other means and a provocation to the establishment. I don’t personally know what triggered what first; what I can state is that after a certain point in history (surely well represented by bands such as The Pop Group, Lounge Lizards or Naked City) has always been at the same time something shaping the contamination or something shaped by contamination. After one hundred years Jazz is still shapeless and liquid; a resilient category that infiltrates each time to bastardize or elevate music.
All this was a necessary introduction to Zugunruhe by Electric Kuru: an Italian Jazzcore/Free Jazz/Doom Jazz collective from Trento.
The formation (bass guitar, drums and percussions, guitar and tenor saxophone) had started playing with totally unrelated intentions under the name of Kepsah. The four, in fact, had publish, between 2010 and 2013 their first three releases. In order: a LP, a split and an EP. The three works could be defined – if you like to define stuff – as Jazz influenced Italian Post-hardcore/Emocore. Music more likely to have been influenced by bands as Massimo Volume or Chambers than by Free Jazz classics.
In 2013 we witness a first change that will be fundamental to the band actual way to conceive tracks and albums. Sebastiano (saxophone) and Michael (drums) start to play in reduced formation under the monicker of Kuru.
No more words, no more emotional melodies. The duo chose the path that leads to pure Fire Music and Inspirational Jazz. On the road to ultimate illumination they release, for what i know, a split with the dutch Jazzcore juggernauts Dead Neanderthals on Strom Records (Johnny Mox, Kepsah) and Kohlaas (Metzengerstein, Giovanni Lami, Umanzuki) and an EP which also features Otto Kokke (saxophone in Dead Neanderthals). The works are warm, moist and hypnotic sonic tribal excursions through remote savannas full of lurking animals, wary tribes and well hidden dangers that cannot be avoided. The works remind of the compositions Ornette Coleman made for the film version of The Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg or Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society with full force; they can count on their extreme simplicity and minimalist/maximalist attitude. No trace of “sonic bulimia” or mannerism and above all no trace of incompetence. In my opinion this is by now the highest point.
In 2015 we assist to Kuru/Kepsah second important decision. As a sextet the guys release Electric Kuru; this was going to be at the same time the name of the album, band and definition of their attitude. In this first record an old formation tries to sort something out of the work that the reduced formation started attempting to adapt to the new groovy, jungle-like mood and adding a Didgeridoo player to darken and smooth everything a bit. The result is a lysergic introspective journey similar to some works by Million Brazilians.
To complete the story we finally have to mention their latest tape out on the italian labels Non Piangere Dischi and Di Notte Records: Zugunruhe.
As they say in their presskit “Zugunruhe is a German compound word consisting of Zug (migration) and Unruhe (anxiety). In ethology it describes anxious behavior in migratory animals, especially in birds, during the normal migration period. Zugunruhe involves increased activity towards and after dusk with changes in the normal sleep pattern.
In this record, Electric Kuru approach the trip as a life experience. People as birds are moving around, exploring the world, migrating to survive, in strong connection with others, and in deep harmony with nature.
The idea, which itself is very actual and suggestive, is developed in the album alternating different types of musical narratives which are all strongly connected to the wide field of significance of the concept of Free Jazz itself. Electric Kuru oscillate between istants of pure nothing and utter minimalism à la Konstrukt or à la Sarathy Korwar (Persian Shearwater, Green Junglefowl) and endearing unexpected changes of mood which keep the attention of the listener high. With a very good control of the dynamics and of their instrumentation they recall atmospheres and bands that made the genre such as Kilimangiaro Darkjazz Ensemble of I forseethe the dark ahead, if i stay (Terek Sandpiper), Mount Fuji Darkjazz Corporation of Roadburn (Kerguelen Shag) and even of some Shining BlackJazz or Zu (Purple Heron). To sum everything: Zugunruhe is an endearing work that really avoids the latest free jazz gibberish reeds and floundering rythms and brings the discourse to a broader meaning without sounding phoney. Unfortunately, in this specific work, Electric Kuru did not avoid the already mentioned sonic bulimia and unluckily the staggering moments have to pass through a lot of impass which sometimes break the momentum and makes you want to skip the track.
But at this point you may ask yourself: “why this guy had to make this so long to describe and review an album?”. Beside of the effort i need to put in what i write to pass the Ielts exam i needed to make it so long to say that as Jazz is still searching for a shape trial by trial, Electric Kuru/Kuru/Kepsah is trying to bring the discourse on the shape of Jazz to come to a broader field and they are doing it step by step. Zugunruhe is not a perfect album but it has to be considered only as a part of the main path, of the main journey, of the main trip; the one that leads to pure Fire Music and Inspirational Jazz. On the road to ultimate illumination sometimes it’s important to go off the track, even if that means doing something unusual and not easy to understand and appreciate. I hope they’ll continue their long and funky migration for the best.
As mentioned before, Zugunruhe is out on tape for the italian DIY label Non Piangere Dischi & Di Notte Records in a limited edition of 77 copies. All the graphics are curated by Alberto Brunello and the release comes out in a special square packaging designed and cut for the label by Woodslap.