Fort Romeau- Insides

In so many genres of music, visual art, film, and fashion we can in this day and age observe a rising trend of looking to yesteryear and beyond for inspiration. In many parts of art and creativity, the whole “full circle” idea appears to be real. It is particularly prevalent in electronic music, especially with the current “house revival” we are experiencing, which in my opinion is fast reaching its peak, with little left to really return to using a “throwback” emphasis. Frequently one can read on a blurb of album descriptions pertaining to a return to basics, an echo from the old-school, inspiration from the classics, and so on. Actual attempts to follow through on these aspirations are often non-existent and miss the mark entirely. The little bit of info on Fort Romeau’s “Insides” album when it arrived in the KZUU office was unassuming, with no real attempts to make bold statements. It is, after all, just a small blurb. But if there was ever an album in recent years which in its music used subtlety and a minimalist approach to achieve loud statements, it would be “Insides.” Fort Romeau​’s “Insides” may be the first album in a while which accurately and fully achieves an honest attempt at echoing yesteryear sounds and vibes of house music.

From the get-go, it is abundantly clear that Fort Romeau is attempting to preserve and cherish the synths, drums, progression, bass and waspy vocals typical from the early days of electronic music. The simple progression, the loops, haziness, the frequent switching between warmth and coldness, it’s all there. The album has captures the calm excitement that the entire genre and scene seemed to have. The many, often old-school sounding synths evoke such a wonderfully vintage vibe that makes the very polished and beautiful album simply so special. The minimalistic approach allows for the listener to bind the sounds and vibes together to hear either a warm full-bodied or chilly stripped-down sound and this varies throughout. The album starts small and homey, but by track three, “All I Want” will whip you around to a very strict four on the floor, very dancey house track. The title track “Insides” is a hazy concoction of a variety of cosmic and spacey sounds with an inquisitive nature, which is counteracted later by “Lately” which is forthright very german-esque sounding minimal/tech-house track, with it’s slow and repetitive loops and beats snaking their way along. The cold, steely, frigid nature of this song is oddly the most emotive track on the album, if just in a more subtle and rigid way. It is without doubt my favourite track on the album

What makes this album great is its completeness. For eight tracks it does not drift into more experimental approaches, or other genres. No, “Insides” is a solid eight track album of nothing else but house music with echoes and inspirations from the past. This is not to say that they all sound the same (quite the opposite) but in terms of aim and point of the album, it is crafted so exquisitely well. Indeed, in a period where many electronic releases carry on about a return to basics and vibes from the past, “Insides” stands above the rest. It could be the most important release of the year, if only because of its well-produced result of actually evoking this old-school vibe, but also because Fort Romeau is the first to accurately achieve such a product, entirely that which he aimed to do. This is a true celebration of classic house music, the development of electronic music as a whole, and the moods and emotions a producer can evoke from a piece of music alone.

– Nick

EP II by Yumi Zouma

Ever since the New Zealand trio released their single “Alena” back in 2014, I’ve been impatiently anticipating for their EP II, soon to be released under Cascine, a Brooklyn-based label specializing in exquisite sounds.

Thanks to Hype Machine’s exclusive album premiere, I was finally able to taste the first full scoop of it. Although divided in three different cities–Paris, New York, and New Zealand–the three friends successfully produced this polished 80’s soft funk piece, passing back and forth the demos via DropBox, across the borders. The separation between the members explains so much of its “we don’t know where we are or who we are but we are having a good time. We are loving it, and we don’t care” vibes.

Here’s a music video of “Catastrophe,” from EP II.

The groovy beats are shadowed over by cloudy synths and hazy vocals, creating a nostalgic flashback to when nothing really mattered–when responsibilities could easily be forgotten. The trio reminisces the memories of living in the same house together in Christchurch, New Zealand, as the female voices join the harmony of breezy dream-pop melodies and a carefree attitude in the lyrics. Touring with Lorde (ya, ya, ya) in New Zealand in 2014, the band gained popularity and now has been reviewed by several blogs and magazines, showered with positive feedback. With the second EP about to be released, I expect to see the media going even more nuts about these joyful sounds.

My favorite track off EP II is “Dodi.” The refreshingly gentle electric guitar picking beginning of the song really gets me prepared for the whole “Yumi Zouma Experience”: a creation of the nostalgic orb that swallows me as a whole. It makes me feel young; it makes me feel hopeful. This is the kind of music that touches my heart’s soft spot.

You can stream Yumi Zouma’s premiere EP II all this week exclusively on Hype Machine.

Check out Yumi Zouma’s tour dates and discography on their office website.


Donky Pitch releases “Remixes” compilation


Donky Pitch started as little club night in Brighton, England back in 2009, but now in 2015 the label has become a force of a label. Delivering wonky club driven music, Donky Pitch is label with no equal, simply because the diverse range of artists and styles brought to the table. From a string of singles and even two amazing albums by Lockah and The Range, this label has a lot to draw from. This smorgasbord of musicians plays well on the labels newest release, Remixes.

As the name would suggest, Remixes is a compilation of edits and mutations by label mainstays as well as outside names. The mixture of woozy and gleaming synths with rumbling bass provides for a fun ride through this collection of remixes. Only one of the remixes appears to be previously unreleased, but coinciding with the five year retrospective released last October, it seems like a good companion piece.

Cuts like Obey City’s remix of The Range and Mount Bank’s VIP of Starfoxxx seem to present the more downtempo and chill side of the label. Synths flow while subtle bass and drums seem to fill out any open space. But that doesn’t mean the remixes can’t take it to the dance floor. Lockah presented an excellent remix of LiL Texas’ “My Love” that absolutely takes the vocal sample to new euphoric heights. Tokyo Hands remix of Tel Aviv’s VesperTown starts with a hard four to the floor kick, eventually giving way to skittering hi-hats and wonderful stabs that sound like a sugary coated rave, which would play well with labels like PC Music.

The biggest winner on the compilation might go to their very first release from back in the fall of 2010. Mweslee’s remix of Slugabed’s “Donky Stomp” falls near the end of this 8 track compilation, but the wait is worth it. The opening synth glitches don’t prepare the listener for a fluid bass line, hard drums, and clicks of chimes that are soon to appear. By the time the vocal sample comes in, the song mutates into something like a neon version of early James Blake.

Remixes by Donky Pitch is available now on Bandcamp at a name your own price point.

Lxury – Into The Everywhere

Lxury, a.k.a. Andy Smith, made himself heard with his collaboration with college-mate Guy Lawrence from Disclosure J.A.W.S, and it would appear that since that release, Smith has been striving to quasi-distance himself from that “Disclosure” sound, in an almost dizzying way, with each release building interest and expectations, and Smith largely meeting each one, usually with a different approach and not keeping to a mold.

Lxury’s latest album “Into The Everywhere” [Greco-Roman] is a splendid release which weaves its way through all sorts of sounds, emotions, and progressions. An essence of washy, echoey, but “big” sound appear to the emphasis in many of the tracks. Think “wall of sound.” Above all, however, there is a warmth in the music of this EP that underlies every song that surrounds the listener. This warmth is present from start to finish, in different ways, atmosphere, and intensity.

The opening track “Pick You Up” is a whirring and whirrying track with a loving atmosphere expressed by the vocals. “Equals” follows with a more stern, very high-street sounding track that would find it’s way well to a catwalk. I like the long intro how one can hear the various bits and pieces coming together slowly to create the entire basis of the track in a long drawn out form. Depford Goth contributes vocals to the following track “Square 1” a thick and slow-dancey R&B pop ballad. Depford Goth’s deep and tense tone works well with Lxury’s warm music. Things pick up the pace again with “World 2” with finicky drums snapping their way through the happy yet oddly creepily dark tone of the music, with “could have been my lover” repeated ominously throughout the song by a wistful voice. “Neighbour” is a lovely blend of natural drum, pipe and piano sounds in a thumping party track that is hard not to dance to, all mixed together with hazy vocals. The heat here is not a comforting one for cold evenings, rather a humid, wet, heat, that you simply dance through to ignore. The album is capped off by a very interesting unique slower track “Everywhere” that catches you a little of guard, especially after the nature of the previous song. It is soppy, and gives off a sense of reflection and control, and gives off an utterly euphoric yet mature emotion.

These are all wonderful tracks that aren’t strictly house tracks and yet could be played at any dark club. The use of a warming sound in various ways in all tracks, be it intentional or not, is wonderful and makes the whole album. The earnest nature of the music gives it some personality that we all can at times relate to; We want to simply be, stopping intermittently for a bit a fun, before returning to a state of mind that is the most comforting to us.

To me, this is the first great release of 2015.

KZUU Hip Hop’s Top 10 of 2014


2014 saw plenty of developments in the world of hip hop. Some like to knock it as a down year, but hopefully this collection of albums might help convince you otherwise. We pooled lists from a few DJs in our department and narrowed it down to ten, with plenty of great projects just missing the cut. We tried to cover all bases here in terms of sonics, lyrical content and overall head-nodding-induction. Check it out below and keep an ear open for 2015 because we’ll be playing all of these artists on the airwaves.

Honorable Mentions: 100s – Ivry, Low Pros – Low Pros EP, Your Old Droog – Your Old Droog, Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron, YG – My Krazy Life, Blu – Good To Be Home, The Neighbourhood – #000000/#FFFFFF, Ratking – So It Goes, Bobby Shmurda – Shmurda She Wrote EP, Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]. 

dark comedy

10. Open Mike Eagle — Dark Comedy 

Hellfyre Club had a hell of a 2014. Label head Nocando started things off in March with the witty Jimmy The Burnout, Journeyman Busdriver released his best album since ’05 with Perfect Hair, and Milo swung for the fences in October with the spotty but highlight-laden a toothpaste suburb. But it was Open Mike Eagle who really struck gold for the crew — who are making a serious case for the most clever collective in the genre. Hellfyre is a few steps ahead of their contemporaries, and Open Mike Eagle has been making this sort of “Unapologetic Art Rap” for over a decade. He’s “president of the rappers who don’t condone date rape”, and “really wants to dress like Sun Ra”. His friends are super heroes, but they still “don’t have very much money though”. Mike covers everything on his best album to date, and without many features he successfully handles a variety of sounds with 13 clever, soulful and funny tracks. He’s relatable and eccentric, while also embodying a philosophy that’s both free-spirited and introspective. Mike is plenty of adjectives, but most of all he’s charismatic and he’ll always be taking five steps back and ten steps forward. (Daniel P)


9. Vince Staples — Hell Can Wait EP 

Vince Staples has a voice that evokes shades of a baby Snoop Dogg, but somehow the 21-year-old’s raps are around ten years more mature than the Long Beach legend. It took him a few messy mixtapes to get here, but Hell Can Wait is the sound of a star being born in the realm of west coast gangsta revival. His hooks still need work, but Staples’ street raps are refreshingly the complete opposite of glorification. This is a bleak and painful piece of work. He’s a realist. “Hands Up” is a necessary no-nonsense rejection of excessive LAPD violence enacted upon young black males which hits hard with his objection to “paying taxes for some fucking clowns to ride around whoopin niggas’ asses” as Vince refuses “the right to be silent”. “Screen Door” is a shot a fake gansters, “65 Hunnid” is a terrifying description of hood violence, and “Limos” details falling in love and then losing it. But it’s centerpiece “Blue Suade” that hits the hardest, with a tough beat and even tougher bars concerning the sheer will to live. It might all sound like a downer, but if you think life in the hood is anything but downright dreadful then maybe a few spins of Hell Can Wait might help you understand reality. (Daniel P)


8. ZelooperZ — Help 

Although ZelooperZ’ Coon N The Room: Eating Ramen Noodles While Watching Roots on Bootleg, released in 2011, did not receive much attention outside of his hometown of Detroit, the then 18-year-old rapper had attracted the attention of Bruiser Brigade founder Danny Brown. His first project as an official member of the group, 2014’s HELP, evolves past the simpler beats and flows of Coon N The Room and embraces a range of production styles to create a cohesive product. Ranging from the droning synthesizers and bass on tracks like “Plateau” to the punishing, EDM-influenced bangers like “BM”, “Can’t Hang” and “Tonight Show,” the record is consistently progressive and engaging throughout. ZelooperZ’s inflection and delivery are nontraditional, blending with his instrumentals and combining the off-beat-yet-on style of art-rappers like Busdriver with a healthy dose of Lil B’s swagger, while his lyrics detail his Detroit upbringing and party lifestyle, complete with low-brow witticisms (“she only get the mattress; no matrimony”), as well as bruising hooks (“Yo’ bitch gon’ let me fuck tonight”, repeated 8 times over). Features from Danny Brown and Dopehead round out this excellent sophomore effort. (James A)


7. GoldLink — The God Complex

If one were to graph Goldlink’s energy level during the duration of the ironically dense 26-minute debut, The God Complex, on a piece of paper, I’d bet the paper wouldn’t be tall enough to enclose his peaks. Poor complicated descriptions aside; Goldlink really goes off. Rapid drums and flashy synths coupled with his hyperactive voice viciously trample through the nine-song mixtape/album to create a sound he labels “Future Bounce”. Although most of the album is repetitively exciting up-tempo (is that even possible), Goldlink is able to showcase a variety of paces and flows by controlling his energetic delivery on some of the tape’s more gloomy tracks (still up-tempo) “CNTRL” and “When I Die”. The God Complex is anything but brief (I mean that in the positive way) because of the many different things to digest. Imagine it as the longest, most exciting roller coaster you’ve been on. Oh, there’s even a Britney Spears sample. (Peter C)


6. iLoveMakonnen — iLoveMakonnen EP

The line between hip hop and RnB has become increasingly blurred, largely thanks to the success of artists like Drake. Now, singing over the beats of legendary producers 808 Mafia and Atlanta kingpins Sonny Digital and Metro Boomin, fellow Atlantean iLoveMakonnen has established himself as a leader in the Southern resurgence. With his crooning, vibrato-laden voice, Makonnen’s work on his self-titled EP uniquely juxtaposes traditionally “rap” topics- selling Molly, sipping lean- with emotionally charging lyrics, as Makonnen tells the Sarahs and Charlottes in his life that “you were loving someone else when I was looking at you, and I was loving someone else when you were looking at me, I think that it’s plain to see that we’re just not meant to be.” The record’s best moments come in its most tender spots, as Makonnen recalls, in a very specific and Mark Kozelek-esque way, the details of looking at engagement rings, being kept awake at night, wondering where Sarah and Brianna are in this world. While these emotions swirl, the record maintains a sense of playful naiievete and curiosity, all while dodging coming off as melodramatic, keeping up an aesthetic that Pitchfork described as the “weightlessness of a stage full of paper-mache props.” Coming in at 25 minutes, this crossover EP is the perfect companion for an emotional winter night. (James A)


5. Isaiah Rashad — Cilvia Demo 

It’s hard not to mention Isaiah Rashad’s (semi) recent addition to Top Dawg Entertainment, from the importance of association with the highly praised label, or his hometown, Chatanooga, Tenessee, from the rap history (or lack thereof) and its connections to song substance, when discussing his debut album, Cilvia Demo. Now that it’s been mentioned, lets talk music. Cilvia Demo was named after Isaiah’s old car, and is, essentially what he talks about through out the album, his childhood. The subject matter ranges from his adventures, to his teenage actions, to his father, to southern greats. The minimal production layered with powerful drums construct a solid structure for Rashad and his guests to build on. Light, airy singing by SZA and Jean Deux distinctly contrast with Isaiah’s charismatic and loud voice to create a balance of smooth and rough. And this is where the forte of the album is found, in Isaiah Rashad, the protagonist, through his vivid storytelling and demanding voice. Monster singles in “Shot U Down”, “Soliloquy”, and “R.I.P. Brad Miller” clearly show why Cilvia Demo is one of our favorites of 2014. (Peter C)


4. Run The Jewels — Run The Jewels 2

Rap’s most powerful tag team is back. After lighting up the world in 2013 with Run The Jewels, El-P and Killer Mike return with another project that defies the confines of any normal hip hop subgenre. El-P’s production continues to defy definition, expertly blending distorted guitars with subwoofer-pounding 808s and to create the sort of songs beats you would expect from a collaboration between Tom Morello, Heartbreak-era Kanye, and Blink 182’s Travis Barker, who makes a guest appearance on the record. Killer Mike delivers his best, most effective performance of his career, delving into issues of social justice to an extent unseen since R.A.P. Music’s “Reagan,” and El-P comes with his best material since 2012’s masterpiece Cancer 4 Cure. A resurgent appearance from Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha and a vividly graphic verse from Gangsta Boo round out this 40-minute heavyweight. (James A)


3. Travi$ Scott — Days Before Rodeo

Being closely affiliated with T.I. and Kanye West, Travis Scott was inevitably going to blow up, but no one knew when. Turns out his moment was in 2014. Coming off of a mediocre debut mixtape, Owl City, Travis Scott took time into developing his sound and personality, and yes, even modeling during New York Fashion Week. Days Before Rodeo is what he came up with. Like his mentors, Kanye West, Scott’s sound, or the combination of rapping and production is more important than either alone, although neither is severely lacking. With himself, Metro Boomin , Lex Luger, and others on the boards, Days Before Rodeo has some of the best production of the year, such as on Sloppy Toppy, where a unique combination of strings and trap come together. Even with exciting features by Young Thug, Migos, and Rich Homie Quan, Travis separates himself from the rest through his somber mood in “Drugs You Should Try It”. Who knows how high the sky is for Travis Scott in 2015. (Peter C)


2. Lil Herb — Welcome to Fazoland

Anyone who says Chicago drill was “over” before 2014 needs to check their head. Drill masters King Louie and SD dropped great projects this year, but neither shined quite as brightly as Lil Herb. Welcome to Fazoland is more or less Lil Herb’s debut, and apparently it took around two years to make and the work he put into it is apparent to say the least. Herb asks serious questions about why he’s drawn to the violence surrounding him, even though he’s seen first hand how destructive it is. Herb is thoroughly lyrical, so the notion that drill is devoid of substance can finally be put to death. On “4 Minutes of Hell Part 3” he snarls that “in a treacherous war/people dying, nobody crying/all the shit that I saw/you expect me to sit on the porch?”. This aint Chance or Vic Mensa, as Fazoland rests on the grim and dangerous side of the Chicago rap scene. Drugs, gangs and violence are front and center but Lil Herb puts a cohesive spin on the darkness with exceptional and surprisingly soulful production behind him. These are savage raps through and through resting upon a diverse range of trap and boom-bap, sample heavy instrumentals. (Daniel P)


1. Freddie Gibbs/Madlib — Piñata

In 2014, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib were the dream team that came from nowhere. To be fair, the project had been hinted at since 2011 (“Thuggin” has been out for years), but prior to the release of (cocaine) Piñata it was easy to ask “why”? Gibbs’ mixtapes, while mostly excellent, all saw the hardcore rapper spitting rapidly over a strictly gangsta and trap aesthetic. Madlib on the other hand has been occupying his own plane of existence about three galaxies away from left field for some time now. His soul-sampling and weirdo production seems like the oddest of choices for gangsta Gibbs, but damn if they didn’t knock this one out of the park. Freddie Gibbs described the album as a challenge, so consider this an A plus effort on the microphone. There’s plenty of subject matter for Gibbs to rifle through in his most diverse lyrical performance by far, and Madlib does an immaculate job of matching the mood. Gibbs is a gruff thug and Piñata is absolutely a gagsta rap record, albeit one that is much closer to DJ Quik than Chief Keef. The rhymes are sharp and streetwise, and the beats are straight dreamy soul. The features are excellent and there’s 17 songs.(!) We hope that it won’t take these two over a decade to record a followup like the still unreleased sequel with a certain masked MC that we all want Madlib to grace us with, but hell if the wait wouldn’t be worth every second. (Daniel P)


Arca – “Xen”

There are few albums which can fully contain and express a figure of imagination, a picture, or story through each and every piece, each track adding another vital aspect and slant to the desired product. Though all music strives to be some form of human expression, few can accurately present a piece that accurately evokes emotion to similar to that of the human soul, even fewer the feelings and events that a person lives through.  With Arca’s first album “Xen” a persona is expressed so brilliantly you begin to feel as if you are listening to the motions and emotions of someone in your presense, rather than simply music itself. You might even catch yourself thinking you even understand this person, but quickly another level of confusion, another variant in life affects both the person and with it your perception of them. The inner demons and complexities of personalities add to many variances and changing atmospheres throughout the album. This soul is experienced and a cautious one too. “Xen” isn’t pretty, but for some reason attractive, with every tone drawing you closer and further along.

The ferocious and volatile beats which are commonfound in “Xen” command you to pay attention, and you will. You will listen to every “word” storied to you and every sentiment which underlines every story expressed. It’s easy to find yourself doing so multiple times, as I am writing this review very early in the morning after repeated attempts to understand “Xen” as I attempt to try and explain this phenomenally creative and wonderful release. The vicious synths, snapping drums, and wistful bass continuously hurtled at you will hit you repeatedly, as if to hammer in a notion that you simply will never comprehend, but have to at least try. Some will stick, others will bounce back as you watch them trail away. You won’t ever know what’s coming next, or when.  It’s this uncompromising and unpredictable nature of this album, that makes it’s so great, so genuine.

The few moments of calm in “Xen” are cold, for example in “Sad Bitch” and “Wound.” Sure they are warming sounds of strings, and basslines that will throb your heart, but it’s the feeling expressed which has yourself in a deep and dark confine which chill you to your bone.

Arca describes Xen as a genderless alter-ego he describes having spiritual ties to, and according to frequent collaborator Jesse Kanda in this very intimate and utterly fascinating Fader article, Arca, a.k.a Alejandro Ghersi, will often become Xen, a spiritual being embodying a more feminine side of Ghersi who rejuvenates herself through creativity and exploration.

Despite Kanda’s interpretation, Ghersi himself explains to the Guardian,

“Xen is a genderless being. It’s about resisting labels and integrating different sides of ourselves. The complicating of one and the other is very fertile, emotionally and creatively. I’ve been thinking a lot about Native American tribes who saw homosexuals within their tribe as those who could see things in two different ways. [Their sexuality] could have a practical use, spiritually.”

It’s a relatively messy album, with spontaneous and sporadic movements being the underlying attitude of the entire work, but it also works very well and in a shocking, but harrowingly beautiful way. In “Xen” the listener becomes the confidant.

– Nick

Slow Magic – How to Run Away

With his second full-length album How to Run Away, Slow Magic has overjoyed me with the pleasure of smooth melodies and skipping beats that just flow together to slowly ooze magic into my ears. The more I listen to the tracks on this new album, the more I praise it for being an incredibly well-done piece of art. He employs a lot of vocal samples but manages to tone them down just the right amount by layering them with ambient sounds and unique textures that create a beautiful harmony. He’s definitely one of the more promising DJs that are up-coming in the electronic music scene.

What else is unique about this dude? Well, honestly, I couldn’t tell ya. He shares little to no information about his identity meanwhile hiding behind a mask at all performances and musical appearances on the internet. I don’t have a problem with that, though. I actually think that his multi-colored, glowing fox mask works for him. It adds a colorful visual imagery that always pops up in my head every time his music plays.

Check out my favorite track, Girls.

I love bits and pieces of the piano and percussion sounds throughout the entire piece. Usually, an excessive repetition in a song bores/annoys me but this mysteriously talented dude really works it in with the genius cuts of the vocal samples.

Waited 4 U is a close tie with my first choice. Sometimes this replaces Girls and becomes my favorite, depending on my mood. So smooth, so flowy, so precisely mastered, and yet still pumpin’ dancey.

Which one is your favorite?