An Italian avant-garde jazz and rock quartet from Rome, Zu feature a punk-informed, improvisational free jazz style that defies easy categorization.
In addition to a plethora of their own albums and singles, they have collaborated with a diverse group of musicians who include Fred Longberg-Holm, David Tibet, Ken Vandermark, and Mats Gustafsson, to name just a few. After issuing 1999's debut Bromio, they cut a pair of acclaimed albums with Eugene Chadbourne -- The Zu Side of the Chadbourne and Motorhellington -- at the beginning of the new century. In 2007, they established their reputation globally after collaborating with DJ Nobukazu Takemura on the 2007 album Identification with the Enemy: A Key to the Underworld. Two years later, they issued Carboniferous, their debut U.S. offering for Ipecac; it featured guest spots by vocalists Mike Patton and Suzuki. In 2014, they re-teamed with Chadbourne for the acclaimed Left-Hand Path with Eugene Robinson on vocals. In 2018, they finally released Zu93, the effectively named collaboration between Zu and Tibet. Seven years after these collaborators met in Rome for the first time, they issued Mirror Emperor, which was mixed and produced by Stefano Pilia.
The band formed as a trio in the late '90s with Luca T. Mai on alto and baritone sax, Massimo Pupillo on bass, and Jacopo Battaglia on drums. (Pilia joined later as an occasional guitarist and producer.) Ever touring and prolific, Zu have a lengthy album discography that includes Bromio (1999), The Zu Side of Eugene Chadbourne (2000), and Motorhellington (2001), both with Eugene Chadbourne, Igneo (vinyl LP in 2002 and CD in 2005), Radiale (2004), The Way of the Animal Powers (2005), How to Raise an Ox (2005), and Identification with the Enemy: A Key to the Underworld (2007), a collaboration with Japanese electronics wiz and DJ Nobukazu Takemura. As Zu edged toward the new decade, the band's output only increased. Their next release was a split album with fellow Italians Il Teatro degli Orrori, which was limited to 666 copies. They then collaborated with Xabier Iriondo and former Can frontman Damo Suzuki. What followed was their first release for Ipecac Records, 2009's Carboniferous, which received a warm critical reception. There was an unusually long wait for their next long-player, but Cortar Todo eventually appeared in 2015, and they swiftly followed that up with 2017's Jhator. The following year, the long-rumored Mirror Emperor from Zu93 appeared on House of Mythology. Cut in long-awaited collaboration with vocalist David Tibet of Current 93, the larger septet included Pupillo, Pilia, Mai, and Battaglia, with guest string players Andrea Serrapiglio and Sara D’Uva.
In 2019 Zu released Terminalia Amazonia for House of Mythology. The band's members had visited an indigenous village on the Ucayali River near the border between Peru and Brazil. They immersed themselves in the local Shipibo-Conibo culture's ancient knowledge, teachings, and rituals. Zu began field recording the culture's ceremonial healing songs, known as "Icaros" each night. Playing only vintage analog synths, they delivered a dense yet spectral palette of sonic layers as accompaniment to the tribe's tomes, live and in the moment amid a damp rainforest atmosphere. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi