(180 Gram Vinyl, Download Insert)
Zun Zun Egui's first album, 2012's Katang, was definable by it's lack of definition, a cocktail of jumbled languages, insatiable jitters and joyous guitar bumbles, all neatly coexisting. For their second, the Bristol-based but internationally-derived bunch have dialed down their splattered influences. The focus is not merely musical, it pervades all aspects of the record from the outset. The first thing we hear is a fragment of speech from a woman who, in her native Mauritian Creole, explains that she works on a plantation, and it's a clear indication that frontman Kushal Gaya's heritage and identity has been chief source of inspiration. Furthermore, the band's journey to Mauritius has been well documented, and it's clear to see that this heritage and identity is writ inedible across Shackles' Gift. In fact, Gaya's rock influences have resulted in glorious twists on what is, essentially, riff-worship: rushing drumrolls and octave-pinging guitars on 'African Tree' sit somewhere between Billy Corgan, Adam Ant and Kanda Bongo Man (if such a place exists). Album-closer 'City Thunder' has an alarmingly bluesy, grinding, sinuous initial riff that, when mirrored by some gorgeous vibraphone, takes on the gravity of Grails at their most reflective. 'Soul Scratch' even has a yelping, Robert Plant-esque vocal to accompany the dub-derived tension of it's crawl into sublime volume. Lurking underneath the entirety of this album is a refusal to compromise the humble riff, and it's a whole lot more successful as a result.