|Zenfo - Real Music For Real People CD [Zenfo]
The Zenfo journey started in 1999 when the group started getting together and went live in 2000 along with a limited edition EP release of which 1000 copies were sold. As of 2004 the Zenfo lyrical train is gathering pace. A second EP and recent sell out shows have placed Zenfo at or near the top the top of the unsigned pile in their locale. So far their support slots have included preceding such big names as Afrika Bambaataa and Kelly Rowland. Recently Zenfo have also made appearances on TV on shows from Channel 4 and BBC3 and their website boasts that on the radio they are the most played unsigned act in the North West!
Zenfo are now a four man crew comprising core members: Gavstaar: vocals / lyrics / programming / production, Ginger Jesus: guitars / programming / production, DJ Rascal: decks / samples, and recent addition to the line up: Suspect: vocals / lyrics.
On this seven track CD we are welcomed to an apocalypse of urban chaos, complete with poignant lyrics, true flow, swinging bass lines, quality strings and wicked scratching. All this is wrapped up in real life charisma and know-how. Sounds good? The first track Epidemic is definitely on a old skooll Manc vibe with elements of bands like the Happy Mondays which can be heard in the choice of beat loops and spacey keyboard chords. It is uptempo and manic as it starts off with the sounds of someone running or being chased before Gavstarr kicks off with a tale of how he needs a spliff to start the day before he describes what its like to have no dosh and how he is hanging out for a record label to sign him. Suspect takes over for the final verse with is energy and tells us how he keeps it rough. There is lots going on in the mix in terms of beats changing up, a squelchy bass and guitars every few bars. It is the choruses with its sung refrain which adds a really poppy feel and whilst there is a hardcore element there is also a studentified and accessible sound too. The whole track is finished off with cuts and shouts through a megaphone.
Sceintific is less of a wall of sound and more relaxing with its gently keyboard backing. The beat is more regular too and is more to my liking. Zenfo are obviously aware that the dynamics in Hip Hop can sometimes be rather on a level and in their work they build up instruments and arrangements to create peaks and troughs as the track progress. There is a definite electronica feel to this along with Dre-esq nuggets. It is a recollection of people trying to communicate with aliens because of their belief that, 'we are not alone'. The dark topic of Suicide is a metaphore for a MC trying to improve and develop. The final verse is again taken on by Suspect who as more of an orthodox and impressive flow and compliments Gavstarr's intonation as he is apparently from London. The track continues to demonstrate the musical skills of the crew as they mix live instrumentation and programmed sounds to cleverly layer their tracks. Whilst I admire Zefo for making complex tracks which stand out in a sea of similar mediocrity, it is the extra elements which go beyond standard Hip Hop which I'm not really feeling, but that is just me, some of it sounds a bit too 'indie' with the guitars and choral washes.
The lyrical sentiments are on point though. Each song fixing on a particular aspect with a emotive message with a socio-political edge, whether it being life on the dole, working in shitty jobs, living with a unbalanced state of mind brought on by depravation with minimal opportunities for escape leading to drink and drug abuse. Zenfo are describing the grim realities of Manchester's underbelly. All of this is eloquently brought together and documented in They Don't Know Nothing. Each song starts off in an encouraging manner, but generally as they progress and build I find there is too much going on. Cold Lampers Lament keeps it pretty simple with a jazzy vibe and funky bassline. Relatively down tempo this one is where Gavstarr expresses those emotions we have all felt when a girl has left you, with the refrain borrowing from MC Shan's Left Me Lonely.
50 Boots kicks off with several snippets from the news which all build to drawing into question the reasons for going to war. The main track with its loud and dirty drums and contrasting acoustic guitar riff is a story through the eyes of a soldier as he experiences the harshness of being involved in a massacre and an unjust war. Torture and tales of escalating retaliation should make anyone question what is going on Iraq. The final tune Tracks Of My Tears is a comedown which starts off by borrowing from Smokey Robinson with a sung stanza for a Mowtown feel of 30 years ago, before they flip it up for another poignant tale of personal failings and self loathing.
The CD comes with cartoon type artwork which was created by Crispy Duck and the main logo was designed by Mes. Manilla chart magazine have dubbed this four piece the, “Future kings of music” and after listening to their CD I have to say that they have certainly produced their own unique identity with a firm regional voice which could speak to a wider audience. For a demo they have it well produced and finished to a high aural standard. If you want to check them out live you can sometimes catch the lyrical prowess of Gavstaar and Suspect down at the Walk-A-Bout (Peter St. Manchester) for the open mic / jam night on Wednesday evenings along with Evil Goat.
What the other press had to say:
2000 & Beyond