Mombu’s Niger Mini-Review

Mombu is a duo of Antonio Zitarrelli (drums) and Luca Mai (bari sax). They totally defy classification. It is heavily percussive and has self-described “African-core voodoo ritual.” I’m not sure if it can be called metal, but it definitely has metal influences and if anything can be called “hardcore” it is this.

Let’s start with stuff I could do without. I don’t want to necessarily say I don’t like these aspects, but it just sort of ruins the vibe for me. There are some excessively long purely African rhythm drumming. This comes in the middle of songs for which they’ve set a really hardcore, nasty vibe and then it just sort goes away with these interludes.

They also have a lot of minimalistic influences. The songs can be like works by Philip Glass. At first you’re like woah, these rhythmic and tonal patterns are amazing. Then the same patterns repeat for the rest of the song, and even though it really feels like it is going to build to something more it never does. This annoyed me at first, but I’ve come to accept it as just what they’re doing. I shouldn’t project what I expect it to do and then judge it on whether or not it meets those expectations.

Despite what I just wrote, I still think this is a really awesome album. Some of my favorite moments of the year will probably be from this album. Having a pounding earthy drum rhythm with sick dissonances droning incessantly in the bass and then Luca Mai pulling out crazy avant-jazz improv over top of it all just makes for truly fantastic music.

Another thing is how big and powerful these two people can sound. Sure, there’s definitely layering at places. But at lots of other places it is just the two instruments. This is a testament to how tight these two play together and how great they are at their instruments. They pull out really complicated rhythmic patterns with precise articulation. The whole thing just pops and sounds great.

That about sums it up. For me it is an album of great moments. There might be a bit of stuff between those moments I could take or leave, but the moments are so great that I’m willing to stick it out and keep returning for more. It is also of interest to anyone interested in innovative fusion. I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything quite like this combination. It perfectly blends these hardcore moments with African rhythms and jazz.

Overall I give this a 7.5/10. Here’s a sample:

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