CD Review: ZOO (India)…making the caged primordial instinct of humanity into something beautiful

ZOOArtist: ZOO
Title: Atoms & Combinations
Label: Metal Postcard  Rec
Genre: trip hop/electronics/alternative rock

CD review by Dawoud Kringle

When one thinks of Calcutta, trip hop, electronica, and alternative rock somehow don’t spring to mind. Yet, ZOO, the Calcutta based quartet featuring Tanya Sen (vocals, live triggers), Bodhisattwa Ghosh (programming, synthesizers, guitars, vocals), Prosanto Mahato (bass), and Rohit Nandi (drums & interference) provide an intriguing example of a shattered stereotype.

The first track, “Burn,” begins with ethereal chords into which Sen’s vocals slip. The listener is drawn into a vortex of dreamy sound, and suddenly, an alt-rock beat picks up the swirling mass and takes it into a harmonically rich dance. The song slips in and out of various levels of dynamics with colorful aplomb.

The next track, “Ride On” begins with a programmed synth pattern, creating the suggestion of it belonging in dance music category, and then slips into the alt-rock vibe established by the first track. There is a break wherein vocals vacillating between Jamaican patois and Spanish hip hop break with the expected direction of the music. After a brief guitar solo, the song returns to its origins before fading away.

Zoo as a whole is a truly fine band. Sen’s vocals have an endearing intimacy and expressive quality. Mahato’s bass work is solid and carries that irresistible power reserved for good rock bassists. Nandi’s drumming is rich, varied, and always interesting. Ghosh’s work throughout is impressive, and contributes an irreplaceable quality to the band’s sound. The tracks all hang together nicely, with just the right touch of contrast between them and within them. The songwriting, arranging, and production are very good. The title track, “Atoms & Combinations” has a very interesting and energetic quality. The last track, “Centrifuge” is the most “spooky” track, insinuating itself into the listener’s consciousness like a child’s nightmare.

According to the Metal Postcard website, “The name “Zoo” stands for the human zoo in today’s society…society makes us into civilized human beings but deep down we are caged animals with primal instincts, reflecting in the crimes, distortion, corruption, abuse, etc. that prevails in everyday life, hence the name “Zoo”, as the songs are a reflection of true human nature in the modern urban society…” Any fool with an electric guitar, drum machine, or microphone can express this dark, primal nature of humanity. But Zoo expresses this in a very different way: they make the caged primordial instinct of humanity into something beautiful. Zoo’s music possesses a very endearing and human quality. It’s the type of music invoking late night adventures with friends and lovers, complete with terms of endearment, playful fights, deep philosophical discussions, shared experiences of pleasure and danger, and savoring those fleeting moments wherein life becomes more real than real.