|Album Review: Mat Zo—Illusion of Depth|
Illusion of Depth
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One of electronic music’s most eclectic minds Mat Zo celebrates the release of his third studio album Illusion of Depth, available to ears worldwide today by way of the producers’ historic home Anjunabeats. Touted by himself as an auditory assault to the current state of post commercialized trance music, the album aptly defies genre constructs while consistently bearing the indelible elements of Zo's signature.
As dawn breaks on a new era for the producer, taking a brief retrospective on the journey his sound has taken over a career spanning more than a decade is of great help in putting Illusion of Depth into context.
The homecoming album lands seven years following Zo's debut album Damage Control in 2013. Host to an equally expressive, diverse body of work that earned extensive accolades across both electronic and mainstream media, the albums reputation was further validated by the Recording Academy, with the record's break-out single "Easy" receiving GRAMMY nomination for best dance and electronic recording in collaboration with Porter Robinson.
In 2017 on Twitter, Mat expressed how what were his genre-defining progressive productions of the time represented a sound that carried him through struggles with his mental health. Uplifting in nature, his late 2000’s and early tracks of the next decade like “Synapse Dynamics”, “Rush 2009”, “Frequency Flyer” and “Rebound” were quite revolutionary and helped shape the identity of both his own and the profile of the Anjunabeats label itself. While these bright, melodic composures pioneered the way for the decade of progressive trance, they seemingly met the need Zo sought, publicly expressing the notion years later that a heavy re-indulgence might be a point of concern. Illusion of Depth, while undoubtably melodic through its’ duration, boasts only some resemblance to that of his career defining era. Recent comments on the nature of the fanbase and lack of diversity in the scene further illustrate his temperamental relationship with the genre.
Following the debut of Damage Control, Mat took a very different path from that of his prior catalogue. Emerging with a new alias MRSA where he released an authentic UK style assortment of drum and bass on Hospital Records, and founding his own label Mad Zoo, this diversion was self-declared as a “farewell to the [EDM] industry” as it took a new form in the Americas. His sophomore album Self Assemble marked his “venturing off into other realms”, over the next few years earning himself a reputation for quality A&R and breaking new talent. In Illusion of Depth, Zo's onboard of young Atlanta based musician OLAN for three featured vocal cuts. The first vocal single “Problems”, album highlight “Colours” and the striking, climactic inclusion of a cinematic-rock crescendo “Paralysis” boast varying stylistic elements and applications of OLANS vocal range. Using her across all multiple installment successfully curate consistency, and aid in structuring the albums’ sense of identity as where it otherwise may have felt disconnected progressing from genre to genre.
Illusion Of Depth at onset begins with the brash ‘”In Media Res’” followed by “Love Songs”, implementing some French, filter house into the early cuts of the album. Reflecting on the aforementioned foray into drum and bass, “The Next Chapter” features genre-staple MC GQ and navigates a gripping nod to 90’s warehouse techno. Following OLAN’s first vocal appearance in the widely popular single “Problems”, the heavy hitting, acid house and garage influenced roller-coaster “Bruxism” does nothing less than deliver a listening experience In likeness to the titles’ reference to the clenching of the jaw.
The succession of songs to follow is an absolutely exceptional arrangement of electronic music and a joy to listen to. Most reminiscent to his earlier works of all of the cuts on the LP, “Fly While You’re Still Free” into “Petrushka” is an innovative journey and driving deep dive into the core of progressive trance. “Dangerous Feeling” is to follow, brightening the picture with a energetic bounce of funky house. The two aforementioned OLAN vocals are climactic and powerful followed by an extended, 7 minute culmination to the album titled “Begin Again”. The final installment is quite special, through its’ duration taking an artful array of stylistic turns, building a sonic exposition that blossoms into nothing short of a breathtaking, sensorily stimulating melodic breakdown. “Begin Again” boasts volume and depth, far from the Illusion implied in the title of Mat Zo’s third studio album.
So, while the stage for Illusion of Depth having initially being set for a challenge to the identified profile of trance alongside an established bi-polar view of the scene, the album is far more explementary of where the core elements of melodic electronic can be applied in a potpourri of sound profiles. Mat Zo once again succeeds in rejecting industry archetypes, transcending genre constructs cohesively while always being quintessentially Zo.
Listen to Mat Zo’s Illusion of Depth now via Anjunabeats and catch his forthcoming immersive digital Stratosfest Minecraft Festival on October 23rd and 24th. Produced by his very own Mad Zoo Events, the virtual event will feature headlining trance sets from Above & Beyond, ATTLAS, Darude, Ferry Corsten, Gabriel & Dresden, Hellbound, Ilan Bluestone, Jordin Post, Mat Zo, No Mana, Olan, Qrion, and Tritonal. Learn more here, and tickets are available here.