The Bug
London Zoo


4.0
excellent

Review

by plane STAFF
August 14th, 2008 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With help from the local culture, Kevin Martin creates a weird, enjoyable dubstep record.

London Zoo is an obnoxious album. In a good way.

London Zoo works in somewhat the same way that I was so baffled by Kala, almost to the point that I would drive myself insane repeating the slightly off-kilter chorus in “$20” just to understand why, against all forces of logic, it worked. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then it’s probably not.

I guess this is where I could praise Kevin Martin as a true dubstep producer, storming a scene that the more beautiful, poetic Untrue set on fire. The truth is, I just don’t know. Researching and reporting facts would be more redundant than beneficiary (especially since Pitchfork has arranged two– that’s right, two!– articles for your intellectual pleasure), and I think I enjoy London Zoo more because of what the recently-revealed Burial always concealed his identity for: It’s all about the music, man.

In the wake of London Zoo’s release, and the deflating act of Burial’s revealed identity, taking Martin’s reggae-influenced dubstep at face value uncovers a thriving, rather exhilarating product. The same stone-cold precision is there (gunfire sound clips as percussion in “Angry”; steel drums keeping time in “Jah War”), but Martin’s template is large with life, fired toward the sun. Local flavor plays a healthy part in the London-based producers line-up, showing in the various guests that provide a good deal of appeal the album holds.

The standouts (Warrior Queen, Ricky Ranking, Flowdan) aren’t necessarily picked for their appealing attributes (they spit rapidfire lyrics, usually in grimy, accented manner) but for how they work in context of Martin’s difficult melodies. He doesn’t necessarily make it easy; the guests must work in tandem with the fast pace, erratic transitions and sometimes-poetic tangents. Warrior Queen proves to be the most agile, taking the samba-bongo beats in “Insane” to startling heights in her youthful, affected flow. Obvious comparisons to M.I.A. aside, Warrior Queen is helped immensely by Martin’s care, no more so than when the bass is pushed full force against the laser firing, and the verses become a gritty sort-of sultry (the Tears for Fears reference is just showing off).

The men, barring one, all prove just as able to navigate Martin’s sprawling, messy excursion. Ricky Ranking is engulfed in a funky-techno bass for “Murder We,” and the song’s proposed premonitions (“This is getting so bad / the streets are flowing red”) are turned absolutely giddy by Ricky’s sung refrain. When Martin incorporates more of an obvious influence, Dizzee Rascal-poised UK garage, the outcome become instant highlights. “Jah War,” already unwieldy in space-age synths, is further driven by Flowdan’s crass, alien spit. Like Ricky Ranking before him, Flowdan might not prove to be altogether threatening or thug, but there’s a cool factor that plays into London Zoo that proves machismo plays second fiddle to a pretty good time.

When London Zoo faults, and surprisingly it’s mostly contained to one track, it permits a look at the train wreck Martin could have produced. “You & Me” is the album’s slowest track, an unsettling and overly precocious crooner that trips up an otherwise consistent flow. It doesn’t help that Roger Robinson feels completely out of place amidst the more colorful guests, but the song’s descent into the album’s defining instrumental track, and the transition more than makes up for it. “Freak Freak” is a particularly engaging song, mingling the dense production with a spacious atmosphere, the beats hollow and cold. Mixing the percussion in with otherworldly noises and an inconsistent bass, Martin proves it’s his skill that drives London Zoo and not the dressings on it.

London Zoo ends strong, with Warrior Queen getting her last say in with “Poison Dart,” a slow-grinding electronica-based number, just more of the Kala-like bafflement that makes Warrior Queen’s full yell attractive, stripped by the echo evident in the bass. “Judgement” proves to be Martin’s baby though, and Ricky Ranking is more than ready to take on the task of pulling together the song’s five-minutes. The song segues seamlessly behind a sweet ballad and a heavier, more dissonant rap battle, evidently grimy but always prominently melodic. Ricky’s flow, the words nearly indistinguishable, are a highlight and Martin agrees. A surprising delight is the synth-riff featured as a bonus at the end of the track’s five minutes of silence; it’s inconsequential in design, but it sounds good.

When I look back on what I’ve written, I do seem to like London Zoo more than I should. But I like that it’s obnoxious, that I can find new ways to dissect it, and most of all, that I enjoy doing that. That an album can match enjoyment with artistic merit in a year that has largely seen albums go one way or another is a joy in itself. That it’s so fucking weird is just showing off.



Recent reviews by this author
Jenny Hval VisceraYALL Drink From Between Our Hair
Deerhunter Halcyon DigestWavves King of the Beach
Circulatory System Signal MorningAnimal Collective Here Comes the Indian
user ratings (59)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2008


6100 Comments


and i mean just look at that album cover

TheStarclassicTreatment
August 14th 2008


2910 Comments


Kevin Martin as in the dude from the Hiwatts??

Jom
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2008


2711 Comments


Not quite. This Kevin Martin is a British producer. Candlebox's/The Hiwatts' Kevin Martin is from Seattle.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2008


6100 Comments


lol reading

Kiran
Emeritus
August 14th 2008


6002 Comments


yeah I heard a lot about this but it doesn't seem like something I'd be interested in. However, great review.

sgrevs
August 15th 2008


698 Comments


Wait - Burial's identity was revealed? I don't think I want to know who he is.

Good review though, I might check this out.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2008


6100 Comments


Yeah, it bothers me he did it.

SpinLightTwo
August 17th 2008


1043 Comments


I haven't listened to any dubstep besides Burial, so would anyone say this is similar?

P13
August 18th 2008


1327 Comments


you have a lot of bracketed parts and it didn't work with the review. Burial was so dark and gritty from what I heard. Is this like that?

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2008


6100 Comments


you have a lot of bracketed parts and it didn't work with the review.

what
I haven't listened to any dubstep besides Burial, so would anyone say this is similar?

Burial was so dark and gritty from what I heard. Is this like that?

no, review explains that

P13
August 18th 2008


1327 Comments


I read the review but am pretty tired, probably should have read it again.

AggravatedYeti
September 18th 2008


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet ass record


joshuatree
Emeritus
April 29th 2009


3742 Comments


this is pretty sweet

Roach
November 4th 2009


2148 Comments


There's better dubstep but this is still waaaaay good, just so fun to listen to.

qwe3
September 5th 2010


21368 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this rewwwwwwwwls

Polymath
May 19th 2011


3836 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bass, bass, bass.

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
April 4th 2014


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

is skeng just the greatest thing ever or what

LordePots
April 4th 2014


9117 Comments


the bug is weird as FUCK

obnoxious is definitely the word lol

Digging: Elysian Fields - For House Cats And Sea Fans

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
April 4th 2014


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah a lot of this is pretty abrasive which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

LordePots
April 4th 2014


9117 Comments


agreed very much with that sentiment



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy