For decades, musicians have struggled to find common ground between rock's unpretentious catharsis and the more complex rhythmic and tonal layers of other forms. Sometimes these efforts have met with great success (Talking Heads, Adrian Sherwood), but more often with eye-rolling failure. What Bristol, U.K. band Zun Zun Egui has accomplished in its brief two years fits into the former category. As heard on the band's Bal la Poussiere EP, its output is a melding of contemporary, anarchic, hard psychedelic rock with African and other "world" music into a sound comparable to the Creole tongue in which singer Kushal Gaya wails.
"I use the voice as an instrument," says Gaya, from his home in Bristol. "So I [sing in] Mauritian Creole sometimes, but a lot of the vocals are just sounds -- made-up sounds. So there are rhythms in my head that sound African, that's just what I heard growing up -- but [everything else], it's just mixed up."
Like its post-modern psych sound, Zun Zun Egui's members draw on backgrounds freed from the cultural constraints of geography. Despite his fish 'n' chips Brit accent, the frontman only moved to the U.K. nine years ago from his childhood home of Mauritius, the tiny island nation off the East African coast. Kyoto-to-Bristol transplant and painter Yoshino Shigihara had never played in a band before joining Zun Zun on keyboards and vocals, while Matt Johns had put in years drumming for a Cameroonian Afro-jazz band.
Zun Zun's music -- whirlpools of psychedelia spun from traditional music, and linguistic chaos established on conceptual firmament -- is all in line with the integrated and progressive musical history of Bristol. That history runs from punk experimentalists The Pop Group, through the city's dominant reggae sound-system scene and the invention of trip-hop, to 21st-century psych rockers and electro hipsters (Flying Saucer Attack, Fuck Buttons).
"Bristol has a history of welcoming creativity," says bassist Luke Mosse. "It's cheaper, more relaxed and quite racially integrated compared to other places in the U.K. Artists can concentrate on what they really are."
Zun Zun Egui recently found its mentors not in its local art quarters, but in the form of Dutch post-punk anarchists -- and champions of contemporary African music -- The Ex, who picked the band to open its U.K. winter tour.
"Between The Ex and [other tourmates], there were almost 240 collective years of music experience on that tour," says Mosse. "Watching them every night -- they seem to tune to a sound instead of notes. It was amazing."
Zun Zun Egui with DJs Pandemic Pete and Edgar Um. 10 p.m. Wed., March 10. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $5. 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net