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Zomby - One Foot Ahead of the Other

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Artist: Zomby

Album: One Foot Ahead of the Other

Label: Ramp

Review date: Aug. 24, 2009

Given the sonic curveballs that London-based producer Zomby has thrown over the past two years, the title of his latest EP for Ramp Recordings seems a bit tongue-in-cheek. His music hasn’t exactly taken a predictable, linear path: the mysterious beatmaker has been turning cartwheels on and around the burgeoning electronic music scene in the U.K., blazing synth-soaked trails with like-minded digifunk whiz kids in Bristol and Kode9’s thriving Hyperdub camp in London. But if taken as a nod to the sheer momentum building behind Zomby’s impressive compositions, then One Foot Ahead of the Other feels more accurate.

Not to suggest that the new EP is a dramatic departure from his previous releases. If anything, One Foot Ahead of the Other serves as more of a mile-marker for his work so far, focusing the digital delirium of last year’s self-titled EP on Hyperdub through the throwback rave worship of Where Were You In ‘92, his debut full-length. The result sounds like an Atari dance party on a bottle of Robitussin, with woozy synths teetering between four-on-floor hyperdelia and skulking luminescence. “Godzilla,” the EP’s crown jewel and one of the more off-kilter cuts, chugs along with mesmerizing simplicity; arpeggiated tinkles sparkle and melt, moving with the speed of quicksand. And the four-on-the-floor tracks border on maddening. An anxious, over-eager pulse drives equally unnerving synth lines, rapturous in their dizzying imprecision.

This synthesis of rave/arcade/head music is especially interesting when you consider the emphasis that Zomby places on his roots. His internalization and exploitation of sounds past and present, coupled with an ear for composition, have allowed him to channel them into a fresh, futuristic register. Incorporating the 8-bit video game soundtracks and U.K. club music he grew up with, Zomby has genre-hopped through garage, dubstep, house and techno to birth a unique set of beats ready for the dancefloor. And One Foot is definitely a dance record.

The tricky part is figuring out what to call Zomby’s mutations. He’s still widely heralded as a dubstep producer (thanks in no small part to one of his 2008 singles “Spliff Dub,” which he recently mused about on his ever-interesting Twitter feed), though barely a trace of the genre’s subsonic desolation can be found in his recent output. The explosion of the term “wonky” among the likes of Joker, Gemmy, and Rustie would also seem applicable; however, in his response to Simon Reynolds’ recent article exploring the possible link between ketamine and today’s U.K. club culture — to which he anointed Zomby as an affiliate — Zomby declared that wonky isn’t a genre, but an adjective. Makes sense to me.

Regardless of what you’d like to call Zomby’s current electronic nexus, it’s sure to change again soon. Although One Foot Ahead of the Other feels less exploratory and more focused than his Hyperdub EP, it does demonstrate an elastic refinement that could still veer off into alternate galaxies/realities on a whim. And I can’t wait to see where Zomby’s zig-zagging path takes him next.

By Cole Goins

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Where Were U In ’92?



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