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Zed Bias - Biasonic Hotsauce - Birth of the Nanocloud

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Artist: Zed Bias

Album: Biasonic Hotsauce - Birth of the Nanocloud

Label: Tru Thoughts

Review date: Oct. 13, 2011

Producer Dave Jones slipped onto the British charts under his Zed Bias alias way back in 2000. “Neighbourhood” had a lot of elements common to the dance music of that moment: a broken beat, sweeps of house piano, trippy echo on the female vocals. Between all the club stylings, there was enough of a verse-chorus structure to make it work as a pop number. On the darker side, though, the choruses were pinned to sputtering bass slides, ominous and out of key with the piano, discoloring the dancehall refrain they backed: “I feel good, good, good…wonderful good.”

Those bass parts now sound like distant thunder marking the dubstep storm that developed during the next decade, and Jones has gone on to use the name Maddslinky for tracks that tended toward bass beatdowns. His Zed Bias moniker has shown up periodically, but for more soul-oriented collaborations. Biasonic Hotsauce – Birth of the Nanocloud isn’t a fusion or exploratory collection, though. It’s one of those “look at everything I can do” producer records where every track features old friends or up-and-comers.

That’s usually a recipe for a scattershot collection, but Mr. Zed proves himself to be a bit of an octopus. Foremost — both in running order and quality — is dancehall. Jones can make casio-scaled bleeps inflate to epic proportions, and simple beatbox patterns jerk back and forth. The MCs he works with have delirious sway, with Rosco Trim really standing out on “Phoneline.” His voice is so low it naturally breaks into square-wave growl, and Jones takes it lower still, until in blends with his Nindendo synths. He’s just as sympathetic with singers, finding tweaks that complement the genre they’re tilling.

Biasonic Hotsauce is broken up by some campy skits that buffer the genre hops, and after a few of them, the record turns toward electro. Jones does best when he’s least subtle, when his cocktails run towards purple Curacao or glowing Creme de Menth. This, in turn, deflates the quieter moments. “Lucid Dreams,” with FaltyDL, is appropriately low key — Falty has been finding a middle ground between U.S. R’n’B chill and U.K. bass chilliness — but their collaboration gets trampled under the slams and whistles that dominate nearly ever other track.

The third shift comes as a slew of two-step instrumentals that ignore the whole post/brostep divide. “Badness,” done with Skream, is more jaggedly motivating than anything off of Skream’s own schizophrenic collection from last year. The wobbles that don’t try too hard to scramble brains, and the crushed circuits leave enough room for some smoke to waft around them.

The channel flipping mentality is most explicit on his recent re-recording of “Neighborhood.” Rearranging your biggest success is risky, and doing it nine years after the fact (this version was a single in 2009) is just the right amount of time to perturb those who were getting sentimental about it. But if you don’t have attachments to the original, it has its own strengths. Fusion is gone, and the recording is raw and small-room. The female sections feel like day-glo rave. The male parts are straight ragga. The juncture between the two makes no attempt to blend the beats. It’s just a dotted line of snare hits. If peeling off the reverb makes it less dreamy and exposes the lyrical triteness, so what? The contrasting styles inject more funk, with dry bass splats that sound like the early ’90s — or possibly the impending future.

By Ben Donnelly

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