Mat Zo exudes maturity and finesse on sophomore album, ‘Self Assemble’
Mat Zo has communicated a clear message in the years following his breakout as a trance star on Anjunabeats: he isn’t going to be defined by a single genre. In 2013, he came into his own, unleashing Damage Control upon the world and securing his footing as a certifiable game-changer. Matan Zohar’s debut LP embraced multiple genre combinations within one cohesive setting — a feat which his natural virtuosity allowed him to accomplish with ease.
Two-and-a-half years flew by as Zo slowly built his eclectic repertoire and his reputation as one of modern electronic music’s more versatile producers, even launching his own label Mad Zoo in the process. These developments culminated in the announcement earlier this year that a new album was on its way, inciting elation and equally immense curiosity as to what the British import planned on showcasing. The record’s first singles “Soul Food” and “Sinful” immediately indicated nostalgia as a recurring motif.
Now freshly released, Zo’s sophomore album Self Assemble offers something beyond any simple theme: a glimpse into Zo’s deepest thoughts and inspirations. The LP is “a story about my life over the last three years,” he told Billboard — one which carries a poignant tone.
The album commences on a dark note. An ominously-named “Order Out Of Chaos” follows a post-apocalyptic, ambient soundscape laced with dissonant melodies and Medieval-inspired vocals written in a minor key. In a similar vein, “Last Transmission” finishes the work in a brief, ethereal way with ghostly piano cards that tug at the heartstrings. Prior to that, Sinead Egan’s somber, contemplative verses flow over a subtle background that suddenly erupts into a robotic explosion of dramatic bass elements that only boost the ethos fostered at the beginning. Tracks like these seem to mirror Zo’s current feelings about the state of electronic, which he expressed publicly through a stream of disheartened tweets last spring. It’s easy to sense the weight of his jaded thoughts translated into each composition.
That isn’t to say of course that Self Assemble drudges throughout its entirety. In fact, quite a few tracks add lightness and ease to the listening experience. “Soul Food,” with its disco vibes and catchy electric guitars, feels like it came out of the 1980s. “Sinful” follows this trend as well, while “Lights Out” takes the mind back to the early days of electro house, yet incorporates an equally vintage bassline. Nostalgia plays an uplifiting role in this sense, making one reminisce of older, carefree times with each instrumental riff. Zo confirms this notion, having previously stated that he wanted to make permanent, “Homages to the past.”
His love of bass plays a prominent role as well. “Killing Time” oozes his alter ego, MRSA, while “Stereo No Aware” begins deceptively calm before digressing into a futuristic progression filled with chunky bass and a shrill topline. “Smacked Up On Jack” and the VIP of “Ruffneck Bad Boy” touch upon dub, the former taking an extra psychedelic and Eastern-inspired direction.
Some artists inevitably get a case of the “sophomore slump” upon releasing their second albums, but Mat Zo could not be farther from this reality. If anything, Self Assemble is a more refined extension of what he began with his groundbreaking Damage Control. Fitting multiple styles of electronic and retro instrumentals into a fluid story is achieved yet again, yet with a matured, jaded feel to it that combats optimism presented in the latter. It’s intelligent, expressive, and special, sheerly due to the vulnerable place Zo puts himself in by allowing the world to listen into his most intimate emotions.