A couple of weeks back, TZU dropped their crazy-anticipated release Millions of Moments. An album that met, then surprised the buzz surrounding it, Million of Moments saw the troupe incorporate influences you’d never expect to find in music. Drawing on their love of Australian history and their equally as strong love for Sci-Fi, TZU have released an album that doesn’t change the wheel, but sure as hell makes it a lot more interesting.
Leaving no stone unturned as they venture to the seams of their soundscapes, TZU unlocked, morphed and fused genres in ways that aren’t too common these days. Couple that with a message equally as intricate as the sonic arms that carry it. Joelistics has broken down the lyrics and the sounds, track by track for your reading pleasure to further get under the hood of TZU.
Beginning of the End
It begins like this because it has to. Dramatic. Vaguely self-referential. Big theme. Big chords. Big changes for a not-so-big-band. Staccato synth notes proclaim the end of all you thought you knew about us (the human race, not TZU), log drums tap the fabric of societies biorhythms and drum into the listener the idea that if we continue to avert our eyes and turn away from certain truths then we face annihilation. And it’s all pulled off with a catchy chorus and a choir to boot.
We like this song. It’s one of the first songs we wrote at Count Bounce’s new studio. The percussion was recorded by drumming on the outside of a fuse box attached to the kitchen wall. There are more than seven synths at work. It was written collectively. The electro mid section was always a sticking point and elicited such opinions from the band as… ‘let it play out for ages’…’no, it needs something else to happen’…’ we should stick something else in there’… We toyed with the idea of getting a guest rapper. Urthboy’s name came up, so did Solo and Sage Francis, all artists we deeply admire but we didn’t do it and I’m glad.
At the beginning of this album we set ourselves some creative limitations. Let’s make an ambitious record, let’s not cater to radio, let’s have more instrumentals and instrumental sections and most significantly, let’s not rap. This is a sink or swim album, an album where we leave some of our audience in the dust and do it because we as a group want the chance to challenge ourselves and those that listen to us in every conceivable way. I don’t know if we achieved that, but at least we can say it was our plan all along.
Criminals and Murderers
On a cold wet Tasmanian morning at 9am on the 19th of July 1824, a young Irish convict named Alexander Pearce was administered his last rites by a priest before being executed by hanging. He is reported to have said to the priest: ‘Man’s flesh is delicious. It tastes far better than fish or pork’. Criminals and Murderers is a song about desperation and unspeakable acts. It is a song about what we do to survive, what lengths people will go to. It is a song about how we eat each other. Kevin Rudd, anybody?
It is the first of the gothic convict tales on Millions of Moments. It’s the only one based on a true story. There is an Australian film called Van Dieman’s Land. I urge you to see it. In fact I urge you to see more Australian films in general. They tell our stories. And Australian history is rich with horrifying and fascinating tales.
Won’t Let Go
Some of you may know him as Count Bounce, some know him as Pip, some as Seed MC. He is a producer, a songwriter, a song doctor, a singer, a mother fucker of a bass player, a sterling rapper, a guitar player, a soccer player and not too shabby on the keys. Count Bounce brought Won’t Let Go to the table pretty much finished. It’s like a victory lap of production skills and heartfelt sentiments. It skirts about fifteen genres and manages to say more with one repeated phrase than most artists can say on a whole album. Do I sound like I’m gushing? If so, it’s because it is a privilege and a pleasure to be in a band with these fine gentlemen – Count Bounce, Paso and Yeroc. To us!
No, it’s not dubstep. Don’t be silly. It’s around 140bpm’s and it has heavy synths and a punishing beat, but we never called it dubstep. It’s colonial step. It’s ghost step. It’s story step. The bassline in the chorus was played on a Juno running through a big muff guitar pedal played live and direct (not programmed) through an old Urie compressor. We thought you should know that.
The lyrics are about a man who drinks himself into oblivion every night, revisiting a room upstairs on the second floor of his local pub, standing at the threshold of the room and staring into space because he believes he can catch a glimpse of his dead wife in the window. Is she there? Is she a ghost? Is he mad? Maybe he is both haunted by her and haunting her. Maybe it’s just one of those weird stories you hear in countless small towns around Australia. Maybe it’s a meta-physical break-up song that serves to illustrate how some people who you love and who leave you (for whatever reason) still stick around and refuse to get out of your system. And it’s beautiful. And it’s grotesque.
A ballad. A proper heart-on-the-sleeve-burn-the-torch ballad. But just so we’re clear, Breakthrough is not a break-up song. It’s not and never was.
This song was written on a cold day in 2011 while Count Bounce was sick with the flu in the studio. Originally the song was so minimal it resembled a small bird with no feathers trying to crawl back into a nest too far above its head. It is autobiographical, somewhat before the fact, it’s dedicated to someone who I imagine will never hear it and it is in the key of G, as in geee….
Big shout out to Holly Throsby for guesting on the chorus with her unmistakably beautiful, fragile and tender vocal stylings.
A few interesting facts about the song:
1) We enlisted the services of Galapagoose on the beats to help break the deadlock of what to do with the drum track.
2) Count Bounce came up with the master stroke of recording the bridge vocals using the reverb from the body of a banjo.
3) The guiding philosophy for the arrangement was ‘make the listener feel like they’re getting into a warm bath’.
Running From Zardoz
Before Millions of Moments was Millions of Moments it was an instrumental album called Picture Motion. Picture Motion was written in two weeks in a warehouse in Coburg and never released to the public. Every song was named after a film and we went to some strange places with the tracks. Some of the songs from Picture Motion made it onto Millions of Moments with lyrics, and some songs remained instrumental. (Some songs are just waiting in dark places, to be unleashed at a much later date).
Zardoz is a sci-fi film from 1974 that Count Bounce used as the title for this track. He liked the film, we liked the title. Voila!
This song drinks from the blood of tom tom drums and sideways social commentaries. It is a beast of a tune and is what we refer to as a ‘weapon’ when it comes to live shows and festivals. It was a pain in the arse to finish and almost didn’t make the album. How many times did we chop and change it? Well, the origins of the groove were written during a jam at Bounce County and then everything was thrown out except for the bass line and the beat, the lyrics were written and recorded and then re-written and recorded again, the middle eight was finalised over Skype with Joelistics in Berlin dictating lyrics to Paso and Count Bounce in Melbourne.
Fun fact about Nowhere Home – the reverb unit we used in the middle eight is called The Moisturiser.
This song is a new genre we like to call convict step.
Heart of Darkness
Another instrumental from Picture Motion. This one is named after the book by Joseph Conrad, which was the basis for Apocalypse Now. Fun fact – one of the melodies at the end of the song is a sampled note sung by a past Australian Idol which was then pitched up and down a sampler and used as a synth sound. Yes, we have an Australian Idol on our album.
Millions of Moments
Before it was the name of the album, it was the name of a song that was so close to not making the album. It was only by the grace of Yeroc that this song made it. He took what Count Bounce and Joelistics made and salvaged it. In many ways, besides the vocals, the track you hear now is completely the work of Yeroc and demonstrates his unswerving focus on drums, drums, drums… Somewhere out there in the ether is a completed original version of this song that is radically different.
Have you ever loved someone so much that you’ve killed them? Me neither. But the character in this song has. This song is about obsession and awe. I imagine the protagonist is a doctor or a barrister. A man of means who considers himself a source of knowledge on opera. He lives in a city, perhaps it’s Sydney in the early 20th century. He thinks himself above the dross and scum of the people who share the city with him except for one singer who moves him beyond measure. All he wants to do is preserve the beauty he recognises.