Yeah, I’ll admit: I only knew Zombie Nation, pre-Black Toys, from “Kernkraft 4000”. Who knew, John Starlight (Splank!) had already released two albums before this? Well, no matter: Black Toys jumps right into the most current of commercial dance sounds, electro. This isn’t the coke-hyped crunchiness of Justice, or the other Ed Banger artists, something more mainstream, the kind of electro that could find its way onto a Ministry of Sound or Ultra compilation. What’s impressive, and doesn’t necessarily come through on Zombie Nation’s sound, is that all the sounds are specifically engineered for the sake of the track (rather than just sampled). It’s the sound of a squeaking door or the multiple, squiggly effects of “Squid”. And “Slomo” utilizes a heavy dubstep beat with an agitated electro accompaniment to create a deeply banging dancefloor track. But too many of these tracks back away from really embracing electro’s juicy sleaze. The Orange Mix of “Black Toys” (otherwise the best song on the album) wastes the raw material, flittering around with city sounds for two minutes before establishing a tinny beat, and taking way too long to get to the gorgeously sleazy electro bass for a series of outer-space pings and echoes. There’s a nice niche to be carved here, between the indie-oriented heavy metal disco and slickly commercial dance, but on Black Toys Zombie Nation skirts around this niche and never quite nails it. With the pace that dance music evolves, he may have lost his chance.
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// Notes from the Road
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