Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zomby - One Foot In Front of the Other

It seems like a lot folks are rejecting Zomby's
latest offering. Maybe it was out of disappointment that he didn’t follow the trajectory they had in mind.

Not that he cares I’m sure, as this is a guy who seems to do as he pleases. A guy who blew up the spot last year with his self-titled EP on Hyperdub -- establishing insta-Dubstep-street-cred (and a formidable critical hype-machine) -- only to turn around and throw everybody for a loop by releasing an albums worth of raved-up, oldschool, breakbeat ‘ardcore (what!?). And, a guy that basically called out Simon Reynolds as incompetent .

Zomby’s a bit of an eccentric. A known parrot connoisseur. And an a-list beat maker whose true identity remains unknown (he refuses to reveal his face or divulge his name).

So, on to the music.

If your ColecoVision managed to achieve self awareness through some freak electrical storm and then eloped with a drum machine, scored some drugs and proceeded to hit the town for some clubbing, this would be the soundtrack. It seems ol' Zomby's gone off on a UK Garage tangent here; seven of the nine cuts are 140(ish)-BPM. The stiff drum programming gives the brittle grooves a slight jerkyness. The gawky rhythms are punctuated by manifold fractal bursts of bright digital melody that shift up and down in octave as well as in and out of time creating a slightly disorienting, though thoroughly satisfying WTF-effect.

When he hits the mark, as he does with the title track and FireFly Finale, the syncopated beats slink more than jerk. The propulsive rhythmic gyrations forming a hypnotic juxtaposition of lo-fi-meets-futurism and creating neat parallel to modern Dancehall (and thus acheiving a more Jamaica-centric than authenticity than almost anyone this side of the Caribbean) in the process.

The non-Garage-y “half-time” tracks are excellent as well. Godzilla is a stuttering slice of chip-hop drenched in a shower of twinkling pixels that shift in time -- changing from 16th to 24th notes and back. Helter Skelter, with less bleeps and more low end, stands out noticeably from the rest of the lot. Its oscillating haunted-house bass line, old-school jungle pads and general weirdness sound closer to his earlier Hyperdub stuff.

This release is certainly not as ambitious as the Zomby EP. I reckon you could even call it homogeneous (as some have), but when you’re good at something, you’re good at something. And I gotta give it up to Zomby, he still does the bleepy 8-bit grime thing (I refuse to use the word “wonky”) better than anyone.

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