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.