RareNoiseRecords Presents Hungarian Trio Jü with New Release 'III'
With each successive release, the world of the Budapest-based trio Jü seems to become exponentially larger and encompass an ever-expanding range of vibrant and startling influences. The straightforward title of their latest RareNoiseRecords release III reflects the basic fact that this is their third outing as a band and also the tripartite nature of the collective trio. But it also harkens to something mystical and elusive about the number three, a quality of arcane mystery reflected in the number’s vital importance in cultures across the globe.
That essential fact, rather than any specific meaning, may get at the heart of why the members of Jü – guitarist Ádám Mészáros, bassist Ernő Hock, and drummer András Halmos – opted for the title. More than anything, their music reflects a core drive to explore traditions and ideas from far-flung corners of the world, returning with a vital and pulse-quickening sound accented by countless disparate influences yet singularly possessing its own boldly uncategorizable voice.
On III that sound is marked by the now-familiar whirlwind of blistering rock, dizzying prog, ferocious free jazz, mesmerizing ambient textures and alluring Eastern European rhythms. This time out, a strong influence from Southeast Asia bleeds its own way into the mix, particularly the gamelan music of Indonesia and the ecstatic devotional songs of India. The mysticism and spiritual intensity of this music melds with the band’s immersive potency to conjure an overwhelming sound of compelling complexity and breathtaking vigor.
The hybrid sounds become all the richer throughout III with the addition of two special guests, both of whom join the trio on several tracks. Vocalist Dóra Győrfi is a Hungarian singer who works primarily in the context of gamelan and wayang groups in Java. Master electronic musician Bálint Bolcsó is a regular collaborator who also joined the band for its previous release, Summa, and adds a limitless array of possibilities to the band’s palette.
“We listen to all kinds of music, and influences emerge naturally, ” explains Halmos. “We don’t care about styles and trends when making our music. I mean we care, but only to avoid sticking to any of them. We are interested in doing something that is interesting and new for us. If I had to mention influences, they’d mainly be sounds, rather than particular genres or musicians.”
As Mészáros says, the pandemic naturally complicated the creation of III in its earliest stages, but once inspiration struck the writing of the album proceeded at a brisk pace. “Mostly [we worked in] the good old way of developing musical ideas that have been piled up since the previous album, ” the guitarist says. “This band has always been about our interests in mainly non-Western musical traditions that can give a different approach to the way we sense melody or rhythm, harmony or time. The album is a recent imprint of where we are in this study now – it turned out to be quite a lot of Southeast Asia on this record, but Dóra was a huge partner in crime in that.”
“We didn’t have a particular plan, we just wanted to write good songs, ” adds Hock. “We simply carve the songs until the right intensity is reached.”
The raw material from which this mind-blowing music was carved made liberal use of Southeast Asian folk music. For the most part it situates Győrfi’s transcendent renditions of these songs into a wholly new context, though the traditional music spurs the band into unexpected rhythmic and harmonic detours while the vocalist deconstructs the timeworn material with passionate aggression.
“We are simply amazed by the beautifully far out universe of Gamelan music, ” says Mészáros. “After asking Dóra to collaborate we showed her our music and for the next rehearsal she showed up with different songs and lyrics that she thought would fit.”
Opening with an ominous, distorted roar, “Palaran” begins the album at its most fervently hypnotic. As Győrfi essays the traditional song “Palaran Durma Laras Slendro Pathet Nem, ” the trio boils a cauldron of insistent percussion and a melody grafted from the tune “Shashka, ” slowed and rendered on the Moroccan guembri and Serbo-Croatian Tambura. Halmos instigates “Cerberus” – named for the three-headed dog of Greek mythology – with an erratic rock stomp, soon joined by Mészáros’ sinuous melody and Hock’s pulsating bassline, a combo that sounds like Gentle Giant jamming with a gypsy caravan, finally exploding into a heady outburst of free jazz by the song’s violent end.
The triptych of “Oak, ” “Ash” and “Thorn” borrow melodies from Azerbaijani and gamelan folk tunes, filtering them through a haze of space rock and scrap-metal riffs. “Bebek” is a brief interlude with Győrfi intoning over Bolcsó’s chittering electronics and the wandering lines of Hock and Mészáros, followed by the bliudgeoning, serrated groove of “Cornucopia, ” which dissipates into wiry abstraction featuring the collected ensemble venturing into the far fringes of their respective sounds.
The breakneck pace of “Shashka” builds into a keen-edged frenzy, before “Minerva” follows with a maelstrom of amorphous and constantly shifting form, here bursting forth with a North African tribal dance, then bubbling up into Battles-like avant-math rock. The album concludes with “Sumirana Karo Sada Dina Ratee, ” a bhajan, or Indian devotional song by Baba Somanath Ji sung with heartfelt passion by Halmos.
“I’m a follower of this path, ” says the drummer/vocalist. “I was initiated in 1994 by Sant Ajaib Singh Ji Maharaj, one of whose bhajans can be heard on our first album in an instrumental version. There is a book full of these beautiful bhajans, so we just picked one in the studio. It wasn’t rehearsed; I started singing, Ádám and Ernő came in improvising on it.”
This instinctual approach yields rich rewards. In the case of III, it translates into the most expansive and thrilling album that Jü has made to date. Blending elements of world music, experimental jazz and rock, a vast variety of progressive and traditional musics, bleeding-edge electronica and ancient folk, it is an exhilarating sum even more profound and pulse-quickening than its already brilliant parts.
10. Sumirana Karo Sada Dina Ratee
András Halmos - drums, vocals on 10
Ernő Hock - bass
Ádám Mészáros - guitar
Dóra Győrfi - vocals on 01, 06, 07, 08 and 09
Bálint Bolcsó - electronics on 02, 06, 07 and 09
CD, LP AND MULTIPLE DIGITAL FORMATS AVAILABLE IN STORES AND ONLINE ON SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 AND THROUGH WWW.RARENOISERECORDS.COM.
All compositions by Halmos, Hock, Mészáros
01 is based on the traditional song 'Palaran Durma Laras Slendro Pathet Nem'.
03 is based on the traditional song 'Bayati Shiraz'.
04 is based on the traditional song 'Kedah Kasaha'.
09 is based on the traditional song 'Barambun Malam'.
10 based on the song written by Baba Somanath Ji.
Published by RareNoisePublishing (PRS).