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Zion I

Atomic Clock

(Gold Dust Media; US: 9 Nov 2010; UK: 8 Nov 2010)

Everybody's going organic these days

Atomic Clock is the seventh full-length from Oakland underground duo Zion I. Following their previous foray into electronica on 2009’s The Takeover, beatmaster Amp Live and emcee Zumbi explore a warmer, more organic sound, utilizing live musicians and a denser atmosphere this time around.


This new direction is apparent from the start. Lead tracks “Always” and “4U” feature dense soundscapes of keyboards, strings, backing vocals, even brass in addition to the expected thrumming bass and percussion. Zumbi’s flow trips with polysyllabic verve during these first few songs. “Signs of Light” trundles along on an irrepressible beat, while “Polarity” wraps a serious message in tongue-twisting delivery.


Halfway through the album, the momentum begins to flag. “Girlz” is about as dumb as you think it’s going to be, while “Infatuation” just flails around, looking for a hook or an interesting rhythm the doesn’t appear. Reggae stalwarts Rebelution show up to lend a Rasta flair to “Many Stylez”, which is one of the highlights of the back half of the album. In general, though, this is a record that starts strong, then fades.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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By David Berry
1 Feb 2009
There are certainly worse ways to make party music, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing, especially if Zion I is going to keep up some of its backpackery, fight-for-change rhetoric.
11 May 2005
Third coming of Oakland duo serves up an accomplished spread for the heart and head. Revolution not included in tin instructions, but not really missed, either.
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