It’s been three years since Mat Zo released his debut studio album Damage Control. Now, he’s released his follow up effort, Self Assemble, and apart from being everything we could have wanted and more, it’s come precisely when we needed it the most.
The LP has already hit #1 on the iTunes Electronic chart and it’s already received funkadelic remixes by Louis La Roche, Mason, and Teddy Killerz. What’s most alluring is that the album isn’t an easily digestible bunch of songs as we’ve become accustomed to. Rather, Self Assemble centers around telling a story through a cohesive play-through.
[Message From The Author]
To go along with such a cinematic LP, this ‘review’ is going to be a bit different. Rather than take a listen, let it marinate, and then write a polished piece, I just scribbled down my stream of consciousness as I listened, a la live tweet style. Sorry, but I wanted to try something new… So I’m not that sorry.
Order Out of Chaos
Spacey, a bit like the psychedelic soundtrack to an ill-fated game over screen. Before long an angelic chorus and set of winding synth pads strike down upon unprotected heart strings. Brilliant first track to set the stage for a cohesive listen.
And so it begins… Sinead Egan lends an aerated vocal performance to wonderfully complement the wavering synths and funky stabs. It’s no secret Mat Zo loves to pour heaping pots of funk over his tracks, and I’m liking where this is going. Yes, my head is slowly beginning the jovial weave and wobble.
Oh. My. God. Plucked bass makes a triumphant return as I See Monstas perfectly caps this track as an instant classic. The percussion immediately strikes my cerebellum, and the tiniest embellishments are indispensable. Just three tracks deep and already my cochleas are overloaded with the amount of French vibes in this LP. And it’s no wonder “Sinful” has seen such a string of quality remixes.
Another surrealist track, and I’m captivated. It’s all I can do to close my eyes and contemplate the universe with these disembodied swells washing over me. And the ending! WHAT!?
Okay, back to a “normal” song again, but this one is more subdued after what we just went through on the previous track. The percussion is an absolute champion here, and that drum loop alone would be enough to satiate my ears for four minutes. Luscious sub bass comes across beautifully, and the bubbling skats settle into a thick, atmospheric background. Quality.
Smacked Up On Jack
Rain. Cue some waxing chimes, and now there’s a sample coming through, but holy orient, Batman! The uncertain wails of a Chinese pipa vibrate over a hip-hop drum loop, and it lasts just long enough to cement itself as one of my favorite tracks, even if only clocking in at less than two minutes.
Ruffneck Bad Boy (VIP)
Here we’re met with a drumline, some introspective keyboard hits, processed vocals, and YES! The restrained grit heard in the past couple tracks finally cuts loose and makes a full frontal assault. Teeth are bared, and the low-end firmly supplants an aggressive lead oscillation that’s got me feeling some kinda way. Of course it’s steppy, but I’ve never quite gotten such a feeling of vintage knotted seamlessly into modern production.
A little bit of a Ghostbusters vibe piping in, and now we’re hopping at full volume to a delicately concocted white noise loop. However, this breakdown channels some proper house vibes with a seriously gated topline. I just realized I haven’t said anything bad about this album, and that’s for a reason. A ghostly voice beckons not to turn the lights out, and the ferocious laser zips and swelling waves are more than enough to keep from flipping the switch.
Was this recorded in a hometown diner? I doubt it, but there’s an overpowering sense of palpability that I’m just not used to. By juxtaposing moments of blaring funk with minimal bit crushed melodies, Zo has once again left me at a near loss for words. However, when both elements come together for the second breakdown, it’s a euphoric vibe feast that’s got me groovin’ about my living room.
Stereo No Aware
Another soundscape where oceans of trembling drums come to a point before the sounds of our digital age squelch their enormity. But just as quickly we’re thrown into a dance track that bristles with an antagonizing glare. I feel like I’m the world’s last hope against Skynet now, but right before I see John Connor, Zo torques the atmosphere into a segment of hopeful, acidic melodies. Simply put: Biblical.
Acoustic guitar begins tickling away, and Sinead Egan delivers some proper eloquence to set things right. Subtle production lingers around the strums for a phrase or two, but soon an encompassing brass segment and lumbering bassline offer themselves up to the track. Still, I was most certainly not expecting that last breakdown… But I won’t ruin it for you, more goodness is coming this way, just wait.
The Last Transmission
I’ve made it to the end. It’s a sad time. I really don’t want this experience to be over, but I knew it couldn’t last. This feeling is wholeheartedly reflected in this final track, and “The Last Transmission” sounds like it belongs in the heart-wrenching final scene of a feature film. There’s a lot of daily white noise, as found in much of Self Assemble, but the vivid ending to this LP hints at something greater. However, what exactly that may be, I can’t begin to fathom.
Some people might not vibe with what Mat Zo has done here, but I’m absolutely gushing over this whole thing and it’s just too brilliant to overlook. There’s something about the way the tracks blend together, the cohesive mindset behind the release, and the story told with the surrealist segments which have me blown away.
Self Assemble makes you think. If you’d rather be spoon fed the latest progressive anthem, then you’re probably not going to like what Mat Zo has put on the table. Bluntly, this is my favorite album of the year so far, however, to give the release a proper chance, the only way to go is with a full play-through. Some of the tracks are quality standalone pieces, but for the most part, without the context of the album to fall back on, they might get lost. If you haven’t listened yet, do yourself a favor and swoop up this masterpiece via iTunes.