James Zabiela - The Perseverance EP
Mon 10th Dec, 2007 Music Reviewsin
James Zabiela’s critics often refer to his lack of soul. Taking this into context, the title track Perserverence seems an honest and heartfelt reaction to these claims. Zabiela combines his signature cleanness of style with an earnest string melody, funked into a synth in the second half of the track. Even if one takes this as the argument behind the track, there’s still something terribly Zabiela about his efforts to show some emotion here… This is no balls-out, heart on sleeve, wrench of the heart strings. It’s a medium-paced and slightly guarded reflection. Zabiela’s own vocals feature throughout the EP, although here they’re less John Graham and more Kraftwerk, as the words “I try” echo and stutter hauntingly.
The liner notes suggest No Other Way But Down is a nod to the artist’s long-held admiration of Depeche Mode. And Zabiela reveals a surprisingly decent ability to sing, doing a superb job of channeling Dave Gahan. The track itself unfolds like an early piece of electronica: crisp and simple, full of naïve keyboard melodies and computer basslines. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, how it would sound remixed at the hands of a Pole Folder or Trentemoller. As a home listen it’s perfect, but it lacks the edge to really drive a modern-day dancefloor.
Human has been kicking around for a while, released in a few places including as a *one+one& remix on Zabiela’s collaboration with Nic Fanciulli. It begins like it’s going to be a Border Community style wank, but swiftly cranks into a tight little techy monster, encircled by warm, flooding synths. And Phaser Fire is the standout, and also best dancefloor track of the EP. A throbbing, machine gun staccato of a bassline penetrates through perfectly constructed glitches and skitters, finally melding neatly into a sunny little melody. Like the six million dollar man; this is part man, part machine. Zabiela at his finest.