Zomby: Dedication (4AD)
Zomby’s latest has been sitting in my library for months now, patiently awaiting my attention. I’ve played it numerous times but it’s taken quite a while for it to settle in. This may because it’s the least immediate thing that I’ve heard from him; “subtle” isn’t really a word I’d have used to describe him previously. Since making the move to 4AD from Ramp, he’s tightened up his sound and given it more room to breathe. There’s something far more emotive about these tracks than much of his past repertoire, with an attention to detail and spatial depth that makes this feel like a significant leap forward for him. Still, I wouldn’t say Zomby’s attention span has gotten all that much longer, with 16 tracks totalling just over 35 minutes in duration. Only three tracks are over three minutes long, with several under a minute, but despite this approach, Dedication usually feels quite cohesive and fluid. It’s refreshing to hear him being so concise and focused, even when he still indulges his own schticks from past efforts. His knack for time changeups, for instance, changing sequenced melodies from 1/8 to triplets and back, or incrementally shortening intervals from bar to bar, moving from shuffle time to more locked in 4/4 effortlessly — it’s here in spades on many tracks, and though it’s something he uses time and time again, it helps unify these tracks. But many of these tracks are also surprising in their elegance, especially in the front of the album, kicking off with the gloomy, sparse “Witch Hunt” and then the moving “Natalia’s Song.” Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) sings atop “Things Fall Apart” in the center of the album, lending additional gravitas and making it one of the best cuts on the album. Elsewhere Zomby flexes his sequencing muscles with tracks that are deftly bridging the difference in style between the more melancholy tracks and his crazier backcatalogue. “Digital Rain” is by far the best of these, built around a halfbeat and twinkling square leads that weave in and out of each other, changing time continuously before locking into a handsome shuffle groove. Elsewhere “A Devil Lay Here” combines another sparkling square synth lead with what sounds almost like a corny MIDI instrument refrain. This balance between earnest moodmaking and more whimsical melodic gestures is what I find to be really satisfying about Dedication. It’s certainly a far cry from the rave throwback of Where Were U In 92 or the spastic workouts of One Foot Ahead Of The Other, and this may alienate some established fans, but he seems aware of where he’s been and where he’s going.