When the thought of a music album crosses one’s mind, it is usually defined by a potpourri of an artist’s recent works thrown together in a 10 to 15 track conglomerate. But with his debut album “Damage Control,” EDM standout Mat Zo takes the listener on a 60-minute journey through a meticulously designed track list whose elements transcend the dance genre.
From the moment the play button is pressed, it is evident that “Damage Control” is anything but your typical EDM record. The first track, “Superman Lost,” serves as a microcosm of the entire album. Its breathtaking melody is led by a guitar riff and Bhangra-style vocals to set the tone, which can best be summarized in one word: diverse. Meshing together elements of genres that range from the groove of 70s disco to the funk of retro hip-hop, Mat Zo presents “Damage Control” as a work that refuses to be tied down to a single genre.
The album is served up like a fancy 14-course meal, giving listeners a little bit of everything. The soulful vocal loop of “Easy” recites “Loving you is easy” against an uplifting melody; “Pyramid Scheme” features a heavy, old-school hip-hop influence thanks to vocal samples from Chuck D; “Caller ID” is a drum-and-bass, trap-influenced head-bobber. It’s not hard to find something that piques your interest; Zo creates a record that will have you jumping around the room during one song, and singing along to a lullaby the next.
In between every few tracks are interludes that seamlessly transition between styles. “Little Damage” begins with a flute melody, then adds a snare, kick drum and synths to slide into “Pyramid Scheme’s” hip-hop beat. With its mellow vocals and soothing lyrics, “Fall Into Dreams” transitions into the final track of the album, “Time Dilation,” a calming but epic fanfare that brings “Damage Control” to a sound finish. These interludes give the album a majestic flow, making it more than just a set of 14 staggered tracks; listeners embark on an orchestrated 60-minute journey through Zo’s eclectic musical palate.
Released as a single about a month before the release of the album, “Lucid Dreams” proves itself as the creme de la creme of “Damage Control.” Starting with a heavy intro that pounds low notes and bass into your ears, the song transitions into a verse with beautiful counter-melodies produced by a bubbly uplifting synth, which crescendos to a wonderfully executed climactic drop. Whether it’s reminiscing on the good times past, or just daydreaming, “Lucid Dreams” is just one of those songs that accentuates feelings of nostalgia and giddiness in the listener.
To consider “Damage Control” in the conversation for the best dance record of the year alongside titles by marquee names like Daft Punk, Avicii and Kaskade might sound ludicrous, but it’s the truth. In a dance subculture where the focus has been on producing festival “bangers” that are all about the drop, Zo goes against the grain with a work that is teeming with variety. No song sounds the same on “Damage Control;” it is a revolutionary and intricate work that has the makings of a classic. First impressions count, and Zo certainly makes a great one with a debut title that puts his immense talent on grand display. Loving it is easy.
Rating: 5 stars