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“DD Review: Zeroh – BLQLYTE.”


Score: 9.5/10

Track three of Zeroh’s new album, “Metacine,” opens with a half-muffled spoken-word sound bite over ambient jazz: “Europeans have no woman god in their mythology / But we do / So what of the African mind in the West?” The track (I hesitate to call any of these events “songs,” much less “jams” or any Ebonic tab you’d care to apply) proceeds within this very realm to then unpack what’s Zeroh’s perspective on what’s plaguing black Americans in 2020. He mentions a broad spectrum of FORMS of oppression wreaked, from crack cocaine to what he calls “third party control strategies” acting on the black man or woman’s “point of view.”

The artist, whom I actually didn’t even recognize as having unveiled what I ranked as the #42 album of last year on this very website, for his distinct stylistic alternation on this new project (Bandcamp had even classified this as “hip-hop” whereas O Emissions basically aped a Flying Lotus electronica album), dresses up this post-music electro shmear in a dizzying litany of obfuscating effects, rendering vocals as polymorphous to the point of gibberish and psychedelic oblivion. Perhaps tellingly, too, Zeroh on “Metacine” actually adopts what sounds to me like a white vernacular, the type of emphatic enunciation prescribed to individual words which usually typifies a black person making fun of a white person talking, like Dave Chappelle playing that white dad on Chappelle’s Show.

I keep dwelling on this one track “Metacine,” basically, because I think it earmarks the creative crux of what in general in BLQLYTE is a concept album, with the simple scope of portraying life as a black American in 2020. Musically, Zeroh almost completely relinquishes all technical rudiments of hip-hop, a genre which the artist likely, and rightly so, sees as having been debilitated by white corporate interests and the visual realm of cars and “hoes.” Named sole producer of the album (with Johnwayne given “Mixing” credits [2]), Zeroh orchestrates what probably aren’t so much “beats” as they are textural modicums of reality, multifarious, wall-crowding sounds which shift and mutate along with the pace of everyday life or a big city like Los Angeles. Generally, the constant murkiness of the lyrics and prevailing lack of song structure work stalwartly toward creating the sense of the black American’s reality lacking validity: it’s a precocious musical attempt at nullifying all dominant schools of thought in America, of yanking the rug out from WASP culture as we know it. And it’s somewhat sad to say, but Zeroh’s adoption of a white accent on “Metacine” could be seen as an attempt to sandbag what I at least personally perceive as burgeoning lack of black hip-hop “accent,” on the West Coast, which, as superficial as it sounds, was already somewhat potentiating the death knell of the genre. In his vocalization of the problems in this white world, Zeroh acts as a sleeper cell, mocking his enemy so as to impart the utmost devastation thereto.

To be honest, I’ve listened to the totality of BLQLYTE two times now, and it’s almost materialized in my mind as a completely different entity each time — such is the disorienting wilderness of sounds and strategies employed within its temporal boundaries. Flying Lotus, as I mention earlier and as I seem to name-drop every time I attempt to handle this nascent LA DJ, seems like the only viable “influence” applicable to this project or artist. In this way, for its ostensible dismissal of the sum total of genre of yore, BLQLYTE takes certain similar qualities to Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the difference being that Zeroh is actually centralizing an incisive discourse to stand for an oppressed people, and not just petulantly complaining about trivialities in his personal life.

BLQLYTE, throughout, as an LP, is obstinately infinitesimal in stature and energy, as if to mock a complete renouncement of ambition and ego and transform into the subject of the listener’s neuroses, rather, where things like ambition and the perception of our competitive separateness may meet the nullified hypnosis of oblivion. It’s an album that continually brandishes embryonic scraps of songs, rather than fully developed, rhythmic journeys, like “4D” which riffs on a single, jazz-bound guitar chord progression, grows temporary feet as a “rap song” (albeit one with a distorted, barely audible vocal) and once again deleteriously takes on the mindset of a callous white: “Bodies just future dust / Did I scare you? / Yeah I know how y’all be hooked on them drugs”.

Insofar, anyway, as hip-hop and jazz are arts of individual passion and primal desire, Zeroh unfurls an LP here that could be distinctly described as political, perhaps even more effectively discursive than any rap album in history discounting you Public Enemy buffs out there. “The Lord & Nature” begins with the following monologue, whose sonic distortion only seems to become more troublesome on every listen: “Rejoice in the progress you have made / Since the Emancipation Proclamation / Yet remain determined in your efforts / To obtain civil and political equality / We have yet a great distance to go / And endurance is of the essence”. Somewhat surprisingly, then, the track bounces rather jauntily into hip-hop emceeing, with a vocal that seems almost purposely indecipherable, in an uncooperative, mumbled dialect. Contrasted with the honest, sort of guileless rhetoric illuminated on the Navy Blue album, this year, BLQLYTE maintains a distinctly “wild wild west” interface, diminutive directly of founding, jazzy Cali electronica and beautifully post-modern in its authentic, urban schizophrenia of identity.

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[1] Zeroh and Flying Lotus share the common hometown of Los Angeles.

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[2] Check’s in the mail, Bandcamp.

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