Just face it—you’re not going to be able to put your finger on Nguzunguzu (pronounced en-goo-zoo en-goo-zoo); you’re not going to categorize it into any specific genre; and you’re definitely not going to find some flavor-of-the-week to compare it to. Comprised of Chicago Institute of Art-educated DJs Asma Maroof (M.I.A.‘s touring DJ) and Daniel Pineda, LA’s Nguzunguzu marks its territory with stark complexity and unashamed weirdness. Typically, the duo does so by craftily mixing hip-hop and R&B samples (they’ll even go as far as using Dolly Parton’s chops like they did with their Kenzo show) with their own obscure, ethereal synth melodies. The resulting blend often exposes a novel equilibrium point where the vastly-different sounds combine to create fresh and unexpectedly brilliant dance music.
However, when it comes to original productions like the group’s latest EP Warm Pulse, things get a little less poppy, but by no means less experimental or creative. On the EP Maroof and Pineda extend their liberties even further, flirting with unworldly textures so spacy and airy and weird that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear their music featured in some futuristic, outer space equivalent to Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The amorphous track “Delirium” rides an aquatic melody that reverberates over top of an up-tempo syncopated snare and hi-hat beat with booming bass—imagine you’re exploring a dripping cave while on acid and decide to stop and dance. Everything feels pristine and crystalline, but becomes spooky as police sirens arrive and the original beat transitions to a more haunting one. This is Nguzunguzu in it’s element.
The highlight track of the EP, “Smoke Alarm,” plays on it’s own name with a discordant, ear-ringingly high pitched melody that mocks the sound of a true smoke alarm. With heavy bass drops, rapid high hats and half-time snaps that will leave you wanting to “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” the violent, alarming beat could be mistaken for a UGK anthem. Instead of mixing its dance textures with a contemporary artist’s track, Nguzunguzu delivers it’s very own hip-hop to mesh with. Who needs a top-40 sample when you can construct a beat so haphazardous on your own?
Don’t let the fact that this release is an EP fool you—the compilation moves like a mixtape and the tracks work better together than individually. The opening title track “Warm Pulse” introduces the record’s light, spacy tone with a wispy choir vocal sample, pan-flute mocking synth progression and cacophonous percussion, and on its own it’s relatively lacking. However, as the lead track, and directly in front of “Delirium,” the track builds and introduces the way the rest of the album will unfold. Likewise “Drop Cage” bridges the gap between “Smoke Alarm” and “No Longer.” While “Drop Cage” doesn’t necessarily stand strong as a fully developed song, it effectively adds to the album’s overall arc.
Most Nguzunguzu releases (try The Perfect Lulaby) entertain you with familiar bits of mainstream hip-hop and R&B and enlighten your curiosity with the complex mixes of noises and samples. Warm Pulse, however, injects you with a full dose of the latter that proves to be just as eerie and diverse as the group’s downloadable mixes. What the EP lacks in length, it makes up in original, sonic density.