Fraternal twin brothers Aku and Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh are used to working on their own personal wavelength. “When we play, we find these special moments where everything comes together,” says Aku. “That’s our strength and our foundation. We’re pretty much in each other’s heads.”
It’s some very coveted headspace, based on the gushing reactions the twins’ band, Dragons of Zynth, has received this year. At a string of shows, including a lauded South by Southwest appearance, the outfit stunned onlookers, unleashing snarling, dub-driven experimental rock that was hypnotic yet driving, filled with textures not merely heard but felt. That they sport the occasional shock of neon-green hair or retro-futuristic shades straight out of the Bambaataa collection further caused critics to apply contorted descriptions to the Brooklyn band. Are they Afrotek? Synthy stoner rock? Otherworldly kin to TV on the Radio?
“We make autophysiopsychic music,” says Aku. “‘Auto’ being self and the soul, ‘physio’ being the physical manifestation of the psychic. It’s this mind-body-soul truth. It’s our own style, something for us.”
The Dragons’ story began when the twins, born to Ghanaian immigrants in the Bronx and raised in Cleveland, studied music together at Amherst College in Massachusetts under iconoclastic jazzman Yusef Lateef. A gentle soul who coined the phrase “autophysiopsychic,” Lateef helped Aku pass a music-production class he was about to fail, and helped the duo look beyond genre boundaries to find their own sense of style.
“[Lateef]’s a jazz musician, but he doesn’t call it jazz,” Aku explains. “You write ‘jazz’ on a paper in his class and a C is automatically the highest grade you can get.”
After graduating in 2002, the brothers moved to Brooklyn and began making music. Their first collaboration was “War Lover,” a “heart-breaking manifesto” by Akwetey that eventually became the first Dragons of Zynth track. The band has subsequently endeared itself in avant-garde indie circles. A member of Beirut contributed a saxophone sample, which was looped backwards and grafted onto the explosive track “Get Off.” The group has worked with Massive Attack on a handful of songs, and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek–who became a cheerleader for the group after hearing early demos–contributed production work to the band’s debut Coronation Thieves (Gigantic Music).
While often mentioned in the same breath as TV on the Radio, Dragons of Zynth–and its loose, sometimes haunting transmissions–definitely stands on its own. “Once the album comes out, you’ll see we’re coming from a similar place [as TV on the Radio],” says Aku, “but it’s very different.”