MUST LISTEN: REZZ opens a new era of dance music [LP REVIEW+INTERVIEW]
How does one define REZZ?
It’s a question that musicians, critics, and fans alike have pored over throughout the artist’s brief, but momentous musical tenure. Once dubbed by the masses as the “female Gesaffelstein,” Isabelle Rezazadeh has since transcended this reductive – albeit, highly laudable – characterization, to create a style that is entirely her own.
“People used to compare me to Gesaffelstein, but we don’t sound alike at all in my opinion,” REZZ told us in a conversation earlier this year. “There are some similarities… we both make dark music.” The 22-year-old producer further noted that she’s outgrown the phase of her career in which it is necessary, or even accurate to liken her music to that of other artists: “I find that as of late, I’m the one being compared to. I find that lately people are saying, ‘You sound like Rezz.’”
Today, August 4, marks the biggest milestone of Isabelle Rezazadeh’s career to date, as she releases her debut album, Mass Manipulation. And, while she’s far past the point in her career when she was consistently – and inaccurately – referred to as “dark queen of techno,” the eight-track mau5trap LP puts forth her innate, authentic sound with greater strength and clarity than ever before in her career.
“I make this music in such a pure, real, could-not-be-more-authentic of a place in my brain and so it’s so natural and real for me. so for people to be saying it sounds like me means a lot to me because… it’s literally a part of who I am.”
Like any true artist, REZZ arrives at her signature sound through adhering to an intangible, but indomitable vision – one which comes from a psychedelic headspace that she describes as “almost inhuman.”
“It’s this part of my brain that I just can see and hear a certain vibe of music and sounds… and I’m really inspired by that,” she asserts. “I want to get as much music out of that part of my brain as I can.”
To attempt a reduction of REZZ’s music into typical genre stereotypes is to wallow in futility. In the producer’s own words, her music is “all very slow paced and chill and vibey, and [it] sucks you right in. It’s almost like a [hypnotic] void… you’re gone, but you’re all there, all at the same time.”
“That’s how I feel, that’s how I want other people to feel, and that’s what I’m inspired by,” she continues. “That’s the main thing i’m super inspired by, just getting my vision out there in the most accurate way possible.”
In terms of her modus operandi, it still makes sense to liken REZZ to Gesaffelstein. The vision which drives her necessitates that she integrate her authentic musical inspirations with her live show and overall aesthetic – arguably, her own sort of Gesamtkunstwerk. And, like Gesaffelstein, a major way through which REZZ achieves this mission is through an emphasis on raw minimalism.
“I love simplicity in music. I think it can be very heavy hitting and to the point… obviously complex tunes can be cool too, but I like simplicity in everything,” says Rezazadeh. “Simplicity in mindset, simplicity in clothing, simplicity in the way you present yourself. It’s totally a lifestyle.”
“ I feel like I’m making music that is telling people how to feel.”
Throughout Mass Manipulation, REZZ achieves her vision, in part, by channeling her passion for psychology. The artist acknowledges that her interest in cognitive science has made her “aware of [her] feelings, why [she reacts] to things a certain way, and why other people react to things a certain way.” A knowledge which, when harnessed properly, has allowed her “to evolve as a person and a producer, stay focused and motivated, and not lose track of [her] vision.”
Thematically, Rezazadeh’s album pinpoints the nexus between expressing her own feelings authentically and determining her audience’s reaction to their musical manifestation on a visceral level. “ I feel like I’m making music that is telling people how to feel,” she says. “I just want me, my music and everything about my brand to be based around hypnotizing the masses through my music,” she says. And, from the album’s hauntingly mesmerizing opener, “Relax,” the artist successfully endeavors to do just that.
When prompted to tell the story of Mass Manipulation in her own words, REZZ states, “It’s more of a reaction or commentary to modern consumption habits. We trade more in ideas and media than tangible things, so this is my intangible idea of how existence looks – or could look.”
Those who follow REZZ religiously are already well-versed in the canon of her debut album. In a fervently-followed album rollout, the artist provided her first impressions on “how existence looks” by released the first half of her album.
Over the course of the past month, Rezazadeh’s newly-released album singles – “Relax,” “Diluted Brains,” “Premonition,” and “Drugs!” – have become as important a facet of her musical catalogue as any other songs released in the past three years. Meanwhile, hitherto unreleased songs such as “Green Gusher” and “Synesthesia” have been staples in her sets for quite some time.
As a whole, the album traverses REZZ’s aforementioned musical vision, from the sinister psychedelia of “Drugs!” and “Green Gusher,” to the quaking minimalism of “Ascension” and “Diluted Brains.”
Additionally, the album plays host to what very well may be the most virulent production of Rezazadeh’s career thus far, “Livid.” In this maniacal, menacing track, REZZ has arguably achieved her most memorable output since 2016’s “Edge,” and has, once again, demonstrated the true breadth of her abilities.
With the thoughtful construction of Mass Manipulation, and with the visceral draw of songs like “Livid,” Isabelle Rezazadeh has proven that she’s far past the leap from “rising star” to dance music icon. Yet, despite her swift evolution to this artistic phase, the artist’s recruitments on the album indicate that she is still in touch with her inner bedroom producer.
More vocally than most of her peers within the industry, REZZ has used her highly-publicized album as a platform to highlight dark horse producers. She invites up-and-comers Knodis, 13, and Kotek on “Premonition,” “Drugs!,” and “Ascension,” respectively. By prominently including the aforementioned as collaborators, rather than featured (or uncredited) artists, Rezazadeh aims to offer these artists a similar opportunity in their nascent careers to that which deadmau5 provided her in the not-too-distant past.
In stark opposition to the “ensemble cast” collaborations which permeate much of today’s dance music climate, REZZ states, “I don’t care how big or small artists are, it’s all about the music to me.”
“People would be surprised how many talented unknown names there are out there,” she coyly adds, though she is quick to dispel any rumors of creating her own imprint in the near future. “I have thought about it but I’d rather put all my focus on my own music as that’s what keeps me sane & what I’m most passionate about.”
After full consideration of Mass Manipulation and Isabelle’s inspirations, we get a better sense of the previously-posed question, “How does one define REZZ?”
The Canadian producer can’t be defined according to her connection to a specific style or sect of ancestral artists. Nor should she ever again be lauded for being a tremendous talent “at her young age”; indeed, Rezazadeh is far past the stage of her career wherein focusing on her precocity doesn’t inadvertently detract from her deeply-conceived trajectory.
REZZ is at the forefront of a new movement. Hers is a mission which bridges the gap between commercial and underground dance music, and one which eschews formulaic success strategies for unique concepts and authentic sounds.
There’s a reason that hundreds of thousands of fans fervently flock to their fondly-dubbed “Space Mom.” Infiltrating an industry in which commodification strengthens its grip every day, REZZ is one of the rare producers who is strictly putting forth art.
And, in doing so, she’s creating an alternative blueprint for the new age of dance music
This story features additional reporting by Alexandra Blair.
All photos are by Rukes.