Considering the economics of being a musician in 2014, it’s almost astonishing how a ten-piece band like Zongo Junction could make a living. Yet they do it, constantly touring, bringing their psychedelic Afrobeat grooves to midsize venues everywhere. And there’s an audience for it: people love what they do. Is Vampire Weekend responsible? Maybe, but Zongo Junction’s shapeshifting grooves are vastly more interesting, and adrenalizing, and danceable than anything that other band ever dreamed of. Zongo Junction have a new album, No Discount, streaming at Spotify and a show coming up at Brooklyn Bowl on September 3 at 8 PM with the similarly energetic, more disco-inclined Afrolicious. Which means that if you want to party your ass off, that’s the place to be. Cover is $10 and given the size of the place, there’s probably no need to worry about getting a ticket in advance.
The album’s opening track, The Van That Got Away starts out with a tricky, skittish intro fueled by Jordan Hyde’s guitar, then Ross Edwards’ keys hint at a woozy P-Funk ambience before the horns come in with a tight, carpetbombing arrangement. Then all of a sudden they hit a dub interlude, the last thing you’d ever expect. Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s blippy baritone sax leads then out as the ambient layers shift behind him over the scurrying bass and drums of David Lizmi and bandleader Charles Ferguson.
Longtooth is more of a straight-up funk tune with a synth hook that sounds almost like a vocoder, a big, dramatic brass arrangement – that’s Aaron Rockers on that long, impressively judicious trumpet solo, with Kevin Moehringer on tombone and Matt Nelson on tenor sax. Invented History starts out as a ramshackle brass-band romp, hits a nebulously noisy interlude and segues into the bubbly title track. Pointillistic organ and guitar hooks intertwine and build to a big psychedelic soul crescendo, then the horns carry it, building a dizzying thicket of polyrhythms.
The hypnotically pulsing, cleverly intertwining 21 Suspects in Madina sets a balmy tenor sax solo over an echoey drums-and-EFX dub interlude and then picks up steam. A loopy atmospheric interlude sets up the album’s longest track, National Zoo – awash in lush, shifting sheets, it works a mighty anthemic groove down to a long, trippy noir segment and then back: it’s the darkest and most psychedelic track here. Tunnel Bar juxtaposes mid-80s Talking Heads with Afrobeat: it’s both the album’s most cinematic and avant garde number. They end it with a nebulous, enigmatic atmospheric horn outro
So that’s the play-by-play. You’re probably not going to be keeping score, just reacting on a visceral level on the dancefloor.