Zomby

With Love

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With Love isn't necessarily a more ambitious release than Zomby's first album for 4AD. No death-defying production techniques were publicized, and there was no statement of intent regarding the healing of planetary ills. The masked producer didn't do any of the things typically associated with musical ambition. He didn't even hire a string quartet (or discover a battered melodica). At roughly twice the length of Dedication, it's merely more giving (and its alpha-numeric track titling is helpful for those with empty "track #" fields). Much like Dedication, the line between a happenstance sketch and a studiously crafted composition is blurred to a baffling extent. Tracks arbitrarily fade or abruptly end. Stylistic switch-ups occur without warning. Who knows why some of the less momentous tracks take longer to extinguish than, say, the steely and blazing rattler "Orion" (1:13) or the dystopian drum'n'bass morsel "Overdose" (2:33)? If there's any development, it's that Zomby has become slightly more impressive at referencing past sounds in dance music. Whether dealing out breakbeat punishments like "777," wriggling dubstep like "Ascension," or mystical funk like "Isis," he sounds like no one else, simultaneously street and chic, enticing and elusive. The few moments left beatless -- like "Black Rose," so fragile that it sounds like it's on the brink of shattering as it leads into the thumping "Digital Smoke" -- are almost as moving as the ones made for the trunks.

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