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One Foot Ahead Of The Other Kev Kharas , September 29th, 2009 07:54

Zomby’s infamy is brilliant, odd and luminous. Lurk and watch it ripen in online chat rooms — the endless reports of no-show nights (due to illness or unexplained otherwise) and subsequent darts from bloggers, fans and promoters. The best part is that all the ire’s so untargetable: no-one knows who Zomby is, so no-one knows where to fling their arrows. And that’s rare today, with everyone inseparable from their actions, every harsh word archived in comments lists, every movement monitored by Facebook, Twitter, spies and closed circuit television. I’m not saying that Zomby’s tenacious anonymity is indicative of anything socially significant — it’s just really fucking funny.

It was with a similar mischief that Zomby offered the world his debut — and sole, to date — album this time last year. Where Were U In '92? is by far the most coherent and popular thing Zomby's released, but it's also by far the least representative: ecstatic in the wet heat of the rave (or warm memory of it, at least) where before and after (s)he’s sounded more likely to be found poking eyes out in club toilets. One Foot Ahead Of The Other is no different — the producer’s biggest collection of tracks since Where Were U . . . stands back-to-back with that record but only in the sense that it’s facing in the complete opposite direction, its tracks young and fractured blares of now rather than the complete, logical (if still thrilling) recall workouts of its full-length predecessor. You think of a title chosen by another of the post-dubstep motley — Dutch producer Martyn’s stunning ‘All I Have Is Memories’ seemed to describe the way the past, with time and distance, crystallises into something singular, and Where Were U . . . was a rose-tinted ‘is’ to this and the rest of Zomby’s infinite ‘are’.

So it is that we find ourselves drowning once more in tons of molten peacock plumes. Things begin with the title track, a lean, submissive few minutes that nonetheless feel destined: an unchecked steppa rhythm ridden by instantly recognisable synth flail and those phone operator intonations that always vie with Clubland’s Anonymous Diva for Zomby’s attention. Equally recognisable is the sense that Zomby’s attention doesn’t boast too grand a span — ‘Helter Skelter’’s up next and it lags, wounded, briefly, predatory bleeps rising and falling in polyphonic commas (twisted, shuddering) before the vaguely unlistenable shrill of ‘Pumpkinhead’s Revenge’ struts absurdly into earshot (tongue buried in its cheek, surely?!). It’s in moments like these that Zomby’s anonymity reveals itself as something that matters more than identity possibly could — these tracks sound sick, tormented, but you could never say it’s Zomby her/himself that sounds sick or tormented, rather that it’s Zomby who’s doing the tormenting, goading the tracks, slapping them around from the safety of the shadows, causing them to squeal and scream in fits of wrong-wired electricity. Without a face to stare incredulously into or stick pins in, it’s ‘Pumpkinhead’s Revenge’ that must take the flak, conveying upon Zomby an arch, anti-hero status — even if the production’s not always totally on point, a lot of care’s clearly gone into this music, yet it tends to sound so sore. ‘Bubble Bobble’ and ‘Mescaline Cola’ confirm it: for the most part Zomby doesn’t want to show you the music (s)he’s made, (s)he wants to show you the sabotage of it. The appeal lies in the fact that Zomby works with contradictions — the creation inherent in destruction, mostly — that are so timeless, while besetting your ears with sounds so new and alien.

Plaudits to Zomby, then, but what’s to become of the accursed lot he leaves in his wake? This trail of ruined dances, beaten into such terrible, extraordinary contusions? Most likely they’ll be reincarnated as kids’ action figures. They’re the same, shrieking colours anyway — ‘Polka Dot’ scorched oranges and radioactive limes; ‘Godzilla’ rippling purples; ‘Expert Tuition’ and closer ‘Firefly Finale’ riding the same golden groove. They all stand out together, these tracks, desperate for attention like wares in a toy shop. In spite of that (or because of it, perhaps) Zomby hides — so you don’t want to chance anything too grand, too ‘social’. You have to appreciate the anonymity, but at the same time it's hard not to wonder who the children are here — is this a lament for our dead attention spans or a gleeful run-out for Zomby’s? I guess the idea is that we stick around long enough to find out, One Foot . . .'s shadowy overlord again providing more questions than he does answers.