Burgeoning local beat-conductor Zo! has been earning a name for himself of late. The Gorilla Funk Mob affiliate and self-described musical architect offers his newest instrumental project — the sixth installment of the Zo! Presents … series, Passions & Definitions — adding himself to the distinct group of Detroiters making waves within the blacktronica scene. What emerges from this vital comp manages to tiptoe between soul, downbeat and electronica, drawing from each with precision. In this, Zo! molds industry frustrations and personal setbacks into musical triumph with 21 tracks of Moog bliss.
Much of the album’s minimalist approach is kindred to James Poyser or Malik Alston. “Motive” lays keys over handclaps and Leonard Hubbard-esque bass lines to keep the grooves simplistic; a reworked “I Can’t Help It” takes an astral stab at the Stevie Wonder classic, weaving ambient soul and funk throughout; the jazz-tinged “For You” adds a fusion hue to the project, giving the album depth.
Though fans of surging, beat-driven house may find too much space on select cuts, the sonic spirit here is intended, however, to bypass the Dieselboy boom-boom-boom sound and engage the melodic, finger-snapping chi inside us all.
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