Predictably unpredictable fare from the producer and an array of high-profile guests.
David Stubbs 2011-09-14
For the critic, Bryan ‘Boom Bip’ Hollon is at once exhilarating and exasperating – exhilarating in his straddling and meddling of a range of styles, exasperating in that he plays havoc with any attempt to contain or define him with overarching statements as to what he's about. John Peel dubbed him a "modern day Captain Beefheart", which might well have seemed appropriate at that point in his strategically haphazard career. He's collaborated with rapper Doseone, worked in electronica and hip hop, but achieved his highest accolades for Neon Neon, a joint-venture with Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys – the inspired, 80s-style power pop of their album Stainless Style earned the pair a Mercury Prize nomination.
Zig Zaj is predictably unpredictable, something else again for the artist. Featuring a host of collaborators including Bon Iver, Luke Steele, Money Mark and new permanent Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, it's the sort of album that makes you realise that, texturally, these are the richest pop times of all. These tracks are soaked and refracted in a whole gamut of old styles and modern inflections, from glam to post-rock, from electro-pop to electronica.
Opener All Hands heads the procession of what’s to come, with its ritualistic percussion and what sound like the chants of garlanded island women. Goodbye Lovers and Friends, featuring Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, comes down from on high, as if pouring guitar scorn on the orthodoxies of landfill indie. This is how things could be done. Pele, with its robo-nova rhythms, is initially reminiscent of the late Serbian-Brazilian DJ/musician Suba, but soon mutates into a B52’s-style beehive wig-out.
New Order features Klinghoffer, who makes such a starring contribution to the new Chili Peppers album, adding judicious stabs of colour to this frenetic, avant-glam outing. Automation is electropop died and gone to Heaven, then returned to this world in immortal, ethereal form; while the onomatopoeic Tumtum is a lengthy, undulating tide of throbbing analogue, underpinned by a solemn, percussive riff. Nothing's happening nowadays? Everything's happening, and much of it’s on Zig Zaj.