Zomby Ultra Hyperdub
Ultra, like much of Zomby’s output, is deceptively simple. The sparse drum patterns belie a compositional depth and range of influences that rewards repeated listens. Breakbeat, ‘ardcore, techno, ambient, garage, house and RnB are all dissected and digested here to form the masked producer’s own distinct palette.
Following a comparatively clean-sounding pair of EPs released via XL Recordings, Ultra – Zomby’s fourth full-length – is an album of restraint. There’s nothing close to a club-friendly beat until the fourth track, and the overall pace is slow. Like the experience of being passed a joint by a much more experienced smoker than you, Zomby demands that listeners lose themselves and tune into his warped perception of passing time. Yet with Zomby, we’ve come to expect the unexpected, and Ultra switches between tempo and genre with itchy impatience.
The guest spots on Ultra stand out for all the right reasons. On Fly 2, London producer Banshee joins Zomby to manipulate an RnB vocal sample into an emotive, catchy hook. Sweetz, produced with the similarly shadowy producer Burial, is a menacing seven minutes of enigmatic and aggressive vocal loops, tape hiss and degraded rave percussion. Deserving of the hype it garnered when released as a limited single sided 10″ last month, Sweetz is a great combination of Burial’s taught, paranoid sound and Zomby’s harder-hitting approach.
Where beats are present, they’re often set against loosely programmed samples and hooks, deftly treading towards the dancefloor with lurching unease. Ultra is a record that fluctuates between gentle euphoria and anxious dread, and it’s yet another great album from a fascinating producer.