Two Distinct Journeys
Have you ever tried to put two of your favorite things together to see if they combine into one amazing concoction? Sometimes it turns out pretty great, chocolate and peanut butter might be one of the best combinations to ever arise. Other times it doesn’t work out quite so well, (glares at a bag of chicken and waffle flavored potato chips). Wrecked the latest album by Zonal tends slightly towards the latter category, splitting itself into two albums, one excellent, one alright; they fail to fully mesh when jammed together.
The defining trait of the first half of the album is a series of features by Moor Mother, an excellent noise/hip-hop artist who possesses a one-of-a-kind, death rattle of a voice that she uses to imbue her and Zonal’s music with a sense of immense foreboding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always gel exactly as well as one might like. “In A Cage” and “Catalyst” both overutilize Moor Mother to the point that it begins to water down her impactfulness. The over-reliance on her voice also prevents Zonal’s wonderful synth work from punching through to the forefront, making the whole first have a jumble when it could have been a masterpiece.
With Moor Mother’s departure on the song “Wrecked,” the album suddenly comes into view. The masterful use of synth on “Wrecked,” “Debris” and “Alien Within” craft a strange, unsettling world without the use of distracting lyrics. The crushing depth of the bass and the unearthly gurgling of the electronics make for an alien soundscape that feels as inscrutable as it is mesmerizing. The only drawback is that it presents a playground that Moor Mother could have effectively made her home, but instead is used in ways that never showcase her full talents.
Not everything that is good is meant to go together. Had Zonal created an album of instrumental songs and featured Moor Mother on one or two of them, this could have been a contender for one of the most interesting albums of the year. But as it stands, it is merely the tale of two solid albums jammed together to create something less than the sum of its parts. It is worth the listen, if only for the back half, but it is memorable for what it could have been and not what it is.