It seems as though the way the human brain works these days is that you cram it with as much information as possible and then see what happens. It’s a formula that applies everywhere, from the 140-character news stream that is Twitter to the tsunami of remixes and mash ups flooding YouTube. Then there are bands like LA-via-Chicago (and then some) duo Daniel Penida and Asma Maroof of Nguzunguzu. They’ve had references bleeding out of their ears since moving to California, putting on parties and improvising straight to cassette roughly around 2010. But, while they come from a background where sampling is a right and DJ isn’t a dirty word, there’s also something peculiar happening to Nguzunguzu’s sound. That is, they’ve found one.
Applying their unique production aesthetic to those distinctive elements of post dubstep, junk, zouk, Chicago house and whatever ‘world club’ micro-genre you can fling at it, Nguzunguzu have created their own ultra-unique compound in umpteenth release, Warm Pulse. Out on that vanguard of everything weird and progressive in underworld electronica, Hippos in Tanks (June 3), it proves that just because you can locate an influence through Google or Shazam, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming through in way that is totally unique.
It was easy to pick the distinct kuduro influence of ‘El Bebe Ambiente’ from Nguzunguzu’s free to download self-titled EP or the unmistakable piano chord of Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ in their Kenzo Showtunes mixtape. Now, though, these sounds have mutated into a record that sinks the Philip Glass ivories under the vacillating groove of a piercing signal in ‘Smoke Alarm’, while that infamous synth-line of the X-Files theme is pitched and pulled into virtual indiscernability in ‘Drop Cage’.
It’s fitting that Nguzunguzu should have inaugurated the stable for Night Slugs US sister-label Fade to Mind for last year’s Timesup EP. Because, in not only establishing the global culture of the two stables (Night Slugs is based in the UK), they also lead their herd of experimental internationalists as much concerned with visual aesthetics, as sonic peculiarities. As the increasingly layered textures of ‘Warm Pulse’ flicker and fluctuate into a sound that is at once immersing and organic, so too does their album imagery approach a new level of graphic detail. There was the ethereal glow of 2010 EP Mirage, then the 3D geometry of Timesup and now the its a hyperreal diorama of simulated organic and man made matter that cloaks Warm Pulse. You can see Nguzunguzu’s artwork develop from eclectic fragments into cohesive compositions reminiscent of Leilah Weinraub or Fatima Al Qadiri –both, incidentally, share an association with the band in one way or another. In the same way their sound evolves from a twisted and contorted rendition of music nerd disc jockey’s online playlist to a track listing that pulverizes baby talk samples, police sirens and gabba beats to make a sound completely their own.