After a lengthy hiatus, the faceless British dubstep producer Zomby follows up his 2008 Where Were U In ’92 with Dedication, a bleak, depressing work that travels into the low end of bass music and never really returns.
The LP, which runs around 35 minutes and contains 16 tracks mostly around two minutes long, is unrelenting in its hopelessness. The one vocal track, the Panda Bear duet “Things Fall Apart,” is repetitive and miserable, with an undulating synth below Panda Bear’s lyrics about “things fall apart that are meant to last.” Zomby’s new album is almost rave-y in its discrete textures but doesn’t possess rave’s priorities on dynamics or danceability. In fact, if Dedication were playing at a club, I would not want to be anywhere near that club.
Songs like “Vortex” provide a “classic dubstep” feel to Dedication, with big synthy bass and stuttering percussion, but overall this album has a different feel than most dubstep work—more synth washes, more concentration on atmosphere. Dedication is almost closer to the non-genre of “witch house,” without the insufferable effects-laden nonsense that it elicits. The minimal “Digital Rain” is underpinned by a stop-start synth line that the other few parts in the music cling to—the song is repetitive and slightly dull in its oppressiveness.
Dedication, while a great exercise in atmosphere, doesn’t get anywhere past where it started. It begins in gloom and minimal electronics, remains there—hell, it wallows there—and finishes off its life there. It’s horrorstep (new word), and until Zomby further explores the dimensionality of his new world, it will never be able to transcend that label.