Album review: Zomby's 'Dedication'
British beat maker Zomby is an odd figure in the electronic music world, a secretive soul who crafts bass-heavy instrumental music unlike anything else in the oft insular and naval-gazing subgenre of dubstep. Ideas ripped from the music, the London-birthed instrumental movement from which the producer sprang in 2007, have been sneaking into the mainstream in the last few years — and, perhaps not surprisingly given his contradictory nature, Zomby’s new music has steered away from the center and into something way weirder.
The artist’s early music, especially the freakazoid classics “Aquafresh” and “Gloop” (the latter of which sounds exactly like its title) drew heavily on 8-bit computer noises — hyperspace blasts à la Atari’s Defender video game, swishes and swoops suggestive of Asteroids and Space Invaders — which he encased in sub-harmonic bass lines and drunken snare snaps.
On “Dedication,” some of those hard-drive-digging reference points remain. “Vortex” harnesses sounds of early oscillators and first-generation drum machine noises to create something relentlessly futuristic. You can hear the rave sounds of the ’90s in “Lucifer,” which draws its aural pallete from every bad trance track of the decade — but chops and dices those familiar tones until they sound dangerous.
“Digital Rain” could be a lost Aphex Twin outtake from 1994 but updated to sound utterly modern. That track, like most on this thoroughly entertaining release (save the closer, “Basquiat,” a failed attempt at “serious” piano/cello music), showcases Zomby’s obvious affection for building tones: Each of the thousands of individual beats, bumps, dots and dashes on “Dedication” sound forged with a sculptor’s eye for form and shape, crafted and shined until they glisten.
Three and a half stars (Out of four)
— Randall Roberts