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Go Back`Perseverance´ pays off - James Zabiela's last EP on Renaissance.

Posted: 27/11/07 11:51

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What happens to a DJ that's revered for his ability on the decks to not just bend sound, but tie it up, give it a makeover, and release it back into the world a different person, when he steps into the studio? James Zabiela has a reputation (one he happily plays on - have you seen the Star Wars stormtrooper photos?) as more than a little bit of a techno-geek, but it's hardly undeserved - he's a DJ that's seemingly one step ahead of the pack when it comes to harnessing the latest gadgets and coming up with new ways to tweak his music to another level.

So, when he finally stepped into the studio proper in 2005 to put together the Utilities EP for UK´s imprint Renaissance, there was just a bit of pressure on the Southampton man's shoulders. What he produced then, and since, is an array of electronic music that mimicked his already developed sound - part breaks, part glitchy, twitchy warped house, ripe for disassembling in his unique sets. Ever since then, he's slowly been building on this, and the end of 2007 marks a point of maturity with the release of his Perseverance EP on the Nottingham label.

And they are four very different and intriguing tracks, all pointing to the spectrum of his musical influences, and all featuring his vocals, something that's been in scarce supply up until now. The title track, Perseverance, is a sweeping wave of lush house, complete with a retro-feel breakdown, apt for the label that's been home to so many emotive cuts over the years.

No Other Way But Down is a direct and obvious tribute to Depeche Mode, one of Zabiela's first loves, and it's easily good enough to stand on its own, despite the clear comparisons. The insistent, cracking snares, cowbell strikes and deep vocal, while no Dave Gahan, is an impressive previously unearthed string to his musical bow.

Human begins as an ethereal, expansive houser, with lush pads and vocals, threatening to float off into the distance, but it's reigned in by a punchy bassline, evoking the spirit of the late 90s progressive (seemingly no longer a dirty word) house. Completing the quartet is Phaser Fire - classic Zabiela, all layers of fizzing electronic twitches, and robotic samples, the closest to his sound behind the controls and decks. On the evidence of this EP, the gap between his boundary-pushing DJ sets, and his fledgling studio work is slowly closing…

Words by Guy Hornsby