Zomby is a product of his surroundings. The British electronic music producer has been exploring the musical tradition of the UK ’80s and ’90s rave sub-scenes, from jungle and drum ‘n’ bass to later, and incorporating these alongside UK garage spirit and dubstep modernization. His take on these genres, and his incorporations of diverse sounds to further an electronic music vision has caught the attention of a number of labels, through which he has released full-length albums. Following his seminal debut Where Were U In ’92?, he released two albums, Dedication and With Love through 4AD, before releasing 2016’s Ultra through Hyperdub. Now he returns with a blast from the past in Mercury’s Rainbow, that comes with a touch of nostalgia.
Zomby’s new album is not especially new, as it features unreleased material dating back to 2008 and can be considered the missing chapter between his debut and Dedication. While the stylistic side has not significantly mutated through the years, Mercury’s Rainbow is much more direct in its perspective, finding Zomby much closer to his Wiley influences than on his later works. The whole record is a love letter to eskibeat, and that is directly obvious from the texture of the synths, which take on an ethereal and expansive characteristic. Coming in as waves they produce an otherworldly environment, centered around the heavy and direct percussive elements. “Waterfall of Ice” displays an almost soothing quality before it traverses to darker territories, while the title track features an expansive collage of synthetic sounds.
Through the excellent choice of synth textures, Zomby enacts a number of different soundscapes. At times the music will appear almost calming and soothing, but a slight switch is all it takes to bring a more horrifying result. “Delvaux” acts as a contrast to the original four tracks of the album, taking on a John Carpenter-like approach as it spirals down, reaching a much darker and more unstable point. Similar is the case with “Horizon” which features an over the top, disoriented progression that is unclear how it will be resolved, while “Rigormortis” and “Solar Ashes” could easily be used as score parts for a sci-fi flick.
Apart from the mystical and unstable profile of Zomby, the producer also displays a more playful nature. “Immersion” goes absolutely mental in its use of audio effects, placing crazy delays amidst the soundscapes, revealing the adventurous spirit of the producer. “Whirloop” takes the same perspective but applies it to the progression and melodies rather than the audio effects, while “Patina” has an almost jingle-like main theme that completely unravels everything that appeared before it.
Mercury’s Rainbow is undoubtedly a record that projects the identity of Zomby. Despite this being an early work from the producer, essentially his sophomore record, it still summarizes everything that makes his music interesting. While paying homage to an artistic lineage, cherry picking the aspects and elements that work with his own vision, he is constantly looking forward in an attempt to expand the scope of his music. Despite its more raw and rough approach Mercury’s Rainbow stands gracefully as an early chapterin Zomby’s story.