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Zomby - Nothing

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Artist: Zomby

Album: Nothing

Label: 4AD

Review date: Nov. 28, 2011

For a guy after Lamborghinis, not online kudos, Nothing is an awfully cheeky title. Over the last four years, Zomby has ceaselessly cultivated a persona grounded in reckless disregard for the consequences as he shoots for the stars. Beefing with Ben UFO online, combating Twitter hecklers (and Damu), slighting the press, skipping out on gigs, smoking where he shouldn’t and playing Soulja Boy in iTunes when he does, snagging random YouTube homemade movies or Russian singers and making them his own, wearing a fucking Guy Fawkes mask — all of this stuff has been done under the intense scrutiny of the press and the great ire of long-time onlookers. Or maybe it’s delight – the line is so fine these days that one often can’t tell the difference.

That’s all great fun to talk about and argue over, but as Ben UFO can tell you after opening a recent Warehouse Project set with “Labyrinth,” this hot fuss ignores how little debate there is about the actual quality of Zomby’s output. Where it comes from, how it’s tweaked, who got shafted, that’s all secondary — the end result is so convincing that, love him or hate him, Zomby is an artist who imbues each blatant cop and every stolen sample with personality only someone on his level of divisiveness could achieve.

Nothing is no different, spanning his sound from 2008’s amped-up jungle throwback Where Were U in ’92? to the more muted, downcast Dedication from earlier this year. With the airhorn, breakbeats and high-pitched vocal sample of “Labyrinth” opening things up, it sounds like we’re back to two years ago; fans of his early work will enjoy this, “Sens,” and closer “Ecstasy Versions” the most. The chiptuned “Digital Fractal” and “Equinox” fit in with One Foot Ahead of the Other. “Trapdoor” goes well with Dedication. “It Was All a Dream” is the synthesis of them all.

What’s most interesting to me is that this is being released at all. Zomby’s obviously handy with a computer and knows that bonus tracks from Japan will find their way to Mediafire or YouTube one way or another. He’s taken most aspects of the officially released Zomby experience and made a year-end primer for those who missed the dust-up over Dedication, but if you’ve got thousands of tracks, why not have 4AD drop something totally new? Yet, here we are with six songs that made the Japanese extended edition of Dedication and only one track that’s completely new (“Equinox”). I’m glad I didn’t hear it in that context since it makes sense as a prelude rather than an addendum.

That’s not how Zomby does business, though. Part of his ongoing allure is the unpredictability of it all. Will he show up to the gig? Did he take the piss in The Wire interview? Is the link he just posted in his Twitter an eski beat, a chiptune track, or a Gucci Mane remix? It’s all too tempting to say he has no idea himself, but just as Dedication surprised many listeners by aptly navigating theme, mood and flow, Nothing demonstrates Zomby knows his foundational sounds, the everything upon which he builds, better than anyone. He knows what he’s doing musically and promotionally. That’s why it wouldn’t be shocking to discover his most recent titles correspond to the amount of effort he’s invested in their release.

By Patrick Masterson

Other Reviews of Zomby

Where Were U In ’92?

One Foot Ahead of the Other


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View all articles by Patrick Masterson

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