It's tempting, as ever, to enter into a discussion on Zomby's conduct as a human being. Or, should we say, his conduct as a Twitter/dubstepforum.com poster. But for the sake of this review, it's probably wise to separate the masked man’s reputation on that level from the music he makes.
In the same vein of 2008's 'Where Were U in '92?', volume one of this twin-CD, triple-LP set pays its respects to hardcore styling and rave culture. A cacophony of clattering jungle drums, 'Overdose' takes the spotlight. It’s a highly experiential piece – like physically stumbling into a strobed-out rave.
With similar vigor, ‘VI – XI’ pulls in some trippy, skipping vocals, conveying that sense of disconnection you feel in the midst of rushing crowds. There’s also shouts to grime and icicle-tinged eski; 'Memories' calls to mind Ruff Sqwad's mighty 'Functions On The Low', but with a hefty injection of the melancholia that came seeping out of Zomby’s 2011 set, ‘Dedication’ (Clash review).
And then, suddenly, we’re hurled into 2013 with an appreciative nod to current production trends. ‘Horrid’ is an astoundingly beautiful, ice-cold ode to the southern rap instrumental, all low-swung bass notes and trill 808 snares galore.
But he carries it out with style and finesse – rather than a “daaaaamn son” airhorn and gunshot frenzy, Zomby trap is monastic and macabre.
With its decade-sweeping delve into the rave, volume one is a truly outstanding work. If only Zomby had downed tools and stepped away. As it turns out, 12 out of 16 tracks on volume two make use of those recurring trap tropes. And while it’s a sleek sound, all the snares and peppery hi-hats begin to grate the 10th time around.
You get the feeling that, stylistically, Zomby liked the idea of a two-volume, 33-track release, then produced the constituents to fit the whole. But unfortunately it’s a classic case of style (Givenchy, presumably) over substance.
Either that or he's trolling us all. We wouldn’t be surprised.
Words: Felicity Martin
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