Zomby - With Love

A flawed collection, but one that is minted in the producer’s unique persona.

Label: 4AD

Rating: 7

There are few more divisive musical figures than enigmatic electronic producer Zomby. His career so far has been defined by an overarching conviction to make music on his own terms. Both full-length releases so far, 2008’s homage to early 1990s rave and its attendant culture (‘Where Where You In ‘92?’), and 2011’s reflective and moving follow up (‘Dedication’), are records that can be equally as maddening as they are astonishing. Third album ‘With Love’ sees all the facets of his character wrapped up in a work that represents both sides of this fascinating producer.

‘With Love’ is a two-disc set of 33 tracks that encompass personal reflection with spectral evocations of dance music’s history filtered through Zomby’s singular prism. With particular reference to disc one, you can trace a journey from early primitive hardcore to hard edged break beat jungle, garage and ultra modern trap sounds. Indeed, the first five songs flit from the 2 step shuffle of ‘Ascension’ to the doom laden trap of the aptly named ‘Horrid’ to the bewitching spiralling clock chime sounds of ‘If I Will’. The span and scope of the tracks collected here is greater than on any previous Zomby release. However, as is often the case with his music, things are not quite so straightforward. Almost all of the tracks either end abruptly or fade out prematurely. Much of the pieces are built around the briefest of motifs that linger briefly before disappearing. There’s almost a sense that Zomby is content to cannibalise some aspects of his work or is conversely unwilling to give too much away. To give in to full dance floor release and ecstasy would be something of a craven surrender. A sense of frustration permeates as excellent tracks like ominous bleep led opener ‘As Darkness Falls’ are neutered.

The second disc is perhaps closest in tone to the reflective, dark and atmospheric sounds of ’Dedication.’ A number of the titles are indicative of melancholy and torpor - ‘Black Rose’ ‘Entropy Sketch’ ‘Vast Emptiness’. It’s here on this second disc though that the dark heart of ‘With Love’ reveals itself. The tracks here are mostly delicate and deeply evocative. There are fewer harsh cuts; instead, tracks like ‘Entropy Sketch’ fade in like smoke billowing into the night sky. The general feeling is of allusive mystery. The beats and sounds also become more bewitching as the second disc progresses. ‘Shiva’ features an array of video game like bleeps over a deadening beat, while on the nagging and insistent ‘Sphinx’ the sounds flutter like skimming pebbles over the beat. It’s full of brooding pathos but on a track like ‘Vast Emptiness’ you truly appreciate Zomby’s ability to make transcendent deeply moving electronic music in a new form. Here, the trap beats and hi-hats are spindly and overpowering. A monolithic rumble of a backing is aligned to gaseous swirls of sound.

‘With Love’ is a flawed collection that is on a par with Zomby’s previous work but one that is minted in the producer’s unique persona.