Words by Anthony Thomas
TZU are an institution within the Australian music scene and, much like a hyperactive kid that forgot to take their Ritalin, the five-piece have had a hard time satisfying themselves with a particular sound for more than one release. This penchant for innovation rang loud and clear on their freshly released fourth album, Millions of Moments (MoM). TZU stepped further away from their hip-hop roots, delving deeper into the electronic realm they explored on Computer Love. Fans and critics alike have praised this new direction of theirs, and I made my way down to The Zoo on Saturday night to see what all the fuss was about.
I arrived just as Sietta front woman, Caiti B, belted out the very first note of the Darwin locals’ set. Let’s just say that one note made me certain that I was in for a good night. Even though Caiti B was a little stiff at first, it didn’t take long for the sultry goddess to come out. Her voice was so powerful and she delivered each song with such integrity you had no choice but to be captivated. You couldn’t help but to give in to the overwhelming desire to get groovy as her partner in crime, J Mangohig, threw down punishing bass lines and some of the funkiest beats I’ve heard this year. “My Man” and “What Am I Supposed To Do” were the highlights of their set and if I had to grade them on how well they executed their role as support act, Sietta did a mint job. Tonight’s standard had been set, expectations were high and The Zoo was buzzing with good vibes.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the crowd doubled in size just as Paso kicked things off with an impressive display of turntable scratching. TZU knew where it was at, announcing they would be getting ”old school” tonight. With a monster hour-long set to work with, they entertained the crowd with huge helpings from each of their four records. They integrated their old songs with their more recent tunes so seamlessly that it was near impossible to tell that any time had passed between releases.
MoM has seen TZU ditch their raps of the past, in favour of a far more conventional vocal approach. Naturally, it’s got everyone asking, “Can these guys actually sing?” The answer is “yes”. It was astonishing to see the ease with which the two front men effortlessly switched between rap and melodic vocals, definitely a true display of musicianship.
TZU’s performance went above and beyond anything that I could have conjured up in my wildest dreams. They took a risk with MoM, and I’ll bet that it is one set to propel them into another stratosphere. Not forgetting their roots though, TZU picked up their back catalogue, dusted it off, and breathed new life into their classics. They revealed all new soundscapes and drew attention to intricacies in their tracks that have previously gone unnoticed. It was an aurally confronting and visually stimulating experience that I am glad to have shared with others in the audience. Safe to say any skeptics had laid their concerns to bed by now.
There are few acts (especially from the Australian hip hop scene) that successfully explore their own abstract creative concepts without alienating their fans. MoM is a concept album sure, but it doesn’t restrict itself to just the arty musicians that are really into “their sound”. It’s piece of musical genius that managed to unify die-hard and new fans alike on Saturday night. I can only describe their gig as the best music performance I have experienced all year. In fact, I would even go as far as saying that out of all the countless hours I have spent at The Zoo, those recent three or so were easily the most rewarding. Yeah, it was that good.