Jü – Summa [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR074, 53:31 [3/31/17] ****:
Metal and jazz-influenced improvisation as only Jü can do it.
(Àdàm Mészáros – guitar, kalimba, percussion; Ernö Hock – bass guitar, bass ukulele, percussion; Andràs Halmos – drums, bell, kalimba; Kjetil Møster – tenor saxophone (track 5); Bálint Bolcsó – electronics (track 5))
There are few groups quite like the Hungarian experimental metal-jazz trio Jü. They improvise like jazz artists but often integrate amplified and noisy elements from metal music, layering heavy and hard riffs with pummeling drums and scorched electric bass. On the 53-minute Summa, the threesome’s second release on the forward-thinking RareNoise label, guitarist Àdàm Mészáros (who also adds kalimba and percussion), bassist Ernö Hock (he also plays bass ukulele and percussion) and drummer Andràs Halmos (who incorporates kalimba and bells into his rhythmic stew) continue their sonic assault but assimilate world folk music, create ambient and calm arrangements, and include longer pieces reminiscent of the jam band ethos. Make no mistake, there is nothing on Summa which is jazz in a traditional or historical sense, and some listeners would never label this as jazz. Call it a hybrid if you will, and put it where you want, but it’s definitely music which is original and unconstrained.
Like 2014’s JÜ Meets Møster, the trio aren’t alone on this nine-track outing. Saxophonist Kjetil Møster returns on one tune, the lengthy “Partir” (which also includes electronics by Bálint Bolcsó). But mainly, this is an album which showcases the fiery fusillades and improvising intricacies of three musicians who avoid being categorized as one type of band. Summa has been issued as a compact disc, vinyl LP and as a digital download. This review refers to the CD version.
Jü starts with a bang on the nine-minute opener, “Lady Klimax,” which structurally plays like two compositions instead of one. The first half has a distorted inclination, where wooly electric bass, groove-based drumming and fuzzy guitar join forces. There are slices of incomprehensible vocalizing thrown in for good measure. Just as “Lady Klimax” builds up to a rhythmic crescendo the group heads into the second half, where Mészáros pushes Jü into a slow, hard rock section which escalates into a fast-paced metal flourish highlighted by Mészáros’ frenetic six-string soloing. The trio’s metal-etched improvisation also accelerates through the eight-minute title track, fronted by Mészáros’ pyrotechnics. While there are the basic riffs found in typical hard rock, Jü also provides complexity via changing time signatures, Hock’s melodic electric bass, and the threesome’s guitar, bass and drums interaction. In essence, “Summa” (as the name implies), sums up Jü’s modus operandi, boisterously balancing heavy metal music with improvisational moments which have a resilient jazz connotation. There is a dark, brooding quality to “Mongrel Mangrove,” which is akin to Black Sabbath meets early Sonic Youth, particularly with its thick-toned mannerism and somewhat ‘free form’ noise. The strongest melodic theme suffuses through the tight, precise “My Heart Is Somewhere Else,” which is a frantic rock instrumental which wouldn’t be out of place on a Darediablo or early Metallica record.
The proceedings are less explosive on the 12-minute “Partir,” which is French for “to leave.” Møster’s saxophone supplies an ethereal timbre, while Bolcsó’s subtle electronics glide underneath, bequeathing covertness similar to the hum of traffic several blocks away or a barely audible television in the next room. Due to pared down sound and Møster’s atmospheric sax, “Partir” is the most explicit jazz piece, although even here bass and guitar maintain a fusion ambiance.
The African kalimbas come to the fore on the brief “Socotra.” The 1:26 tune was apparently named after an Arabian Sea island, which has been described as one of “the most alien-looking places on Earth.” The finger strummed kalimba also is heard in the prolonged introduction to the longest number, the 12:36 “Jimma Blue,” which seems to get its title from the largest city in southwestern Ethiopia. “Jimma Blue” commences with a nearly soothing sheen complemented by kalimba, bells, lightly circling electronics and low-hued guitar. Little by little, the arrangement heightens as Mészáros’ guitar grows louder and more animated, Halmos switches to his full drum kit and Hock’s electric bass turns prominent. “Jimma Blue” demonstrates Jü’s ability to establish a steady, weathered progression in a long-form layout, where repetition is used as a foundation but movement and advancement is heard from beginning to end. By the ten-minute mark, Jü becomes as potent as a hurricane. Summa concludes quietly, like a nightcap of jasmine wine, with the edited, 1:15 cut “Sinus Begena,” a solo bass vehicle for Hock, where his silhouetted bass is echoed by a shadowy and wafting electronic patina.
My Heart Is Somewhere Else