Things have definitely gotten more interesting since Zomby came along. Leaking the odd 12” on frontier labels like Brainmath, Ramp and Hyperdub throughout 2007-8, the still faceless London producer has garnered a huge amount of attention, both good and bad, through his rule-breaking mathematics, at times ridiculously oscilating rhythms and outright (mainly web-based) front.
Whether it’s producing revisions of ‘92 era hardcore on his debut album, 2-step tectonics on the following extended player, or simply murderously threatening fellow producers and/or journalists via Twitter, Zomby certainly has a vision. ‘Dedication’, an album created in homage to his recently deceased father, comes across as a fuller debut than either earlier albums (2008’s ‘Where Were You in ‘92’ and the 9 track ‘One Foot Ahead of the Other’ from the following year).
Coming out all guns blazing with the preset shotgun-toting ‘Witch Hunt’, the aesthetic throughout the 16 tracks on offer here is tighter, more refined and above all, far more emotional than anything else from his available back catalogue.
Tracks come and go within an instant. ‘Witch Hunt’ rolls through with a melancholy swagger, relying on a simplistic melody that’s overrided by the tripled-triplets of the sabre-sharp hi-hat work, tweaked to within an inch of their life, before dropping down into the Russian X-Factor sampling Burial-isms of ‘Natalia’s Song’ (according to the man himself, created simply for the enjoyment of the aforementioned Hyperdub pioneer).
We’re on more familiar territory with ‘Alothea’, a stark, shuffling ‘post-garage’ rhythm with regular motifs of haunting melodies and dampened, synthetic hand claps. ‘Black Orchid’ is less successful in ambience, but makes up for it with a hard hitting, neck snapping synth melody that can’t be ignored, aside from paying attention to the thumb-driven sub pads that lie beneath.
‘Dedication’ displays less successful experiments (‘Salamander’, which has a gorgeous samba rhythm, but is just too light, and the somewhat disappointing Panda Bear vocal on ‘Things Fall Apart’), but there’s nothing here you wouldn’t gladly listen to over the dirge of weak ‘future garage’ tracks that are currently spilling out the sides of dubsteps ruptured past.
The best work is within another triplet of ideas, starting with the low-driven vibes of ‘Vortex’, a track that not only works the dancefloor hard with razor snares and buzzsaw bass, but retains one of the most original melodies within its twice repeated phrase of keys that I’ve heard all year.
The combination of the gorgeously downbeat ‘Lucifer’, ‘Digital Rain’ and ‘Vanquish’ sets you up nicely for stand out track ‘A Devil Lay Here’, keenly displaying Zomby’s almost classical hold on mellifluous soul, with clipped drums, low level organ keys and an insistently aired ride cymbal all intact.
Finishing with the emotive yet vapid UK funky of ‘Mozaik’ may not be the strongest bookend to this latest chapter in the Zomby story, but tracks like the ghostly junglism of ‘Haunted’ and the simple piano piece of ‘Basquiat’ ensure that this latest collection of the man’s (surely by now) mammoth collection of work demands far deeper interrogation. An album for futurist low-riders this most definitely is.
‘Dedication’ is out now on 4AD.