A personal, intimate success for the evolving Scottish producer.
Noel Gardner 2012-09-10
Moving to Berlin might be the 21st-century artist’s equivalent of 17th-century pilgrims sailing to the future United States. Not as many hand-wringing colonialist issues to tackle, granted, but at this point it's reasonable to expect to find a bar or club in the German capital where one can have a lucid conversation without command of the native language.
You might even find yourself chatting with Rudi Zygadlo, who grew up in the Scottish town of Dumfries and moved to Glasgow before Planet Mu issued his debut album, Great Western Laymen, in 2010. Pushed, albeit awkwardly, into the pigeonholes of dubstep and "bass music", in truth the producer was too eclectic to fit either tag neatly.
Tragicomedies, his second full-length, sees him moving further away again from club sounds – despite settling in a city with probably the most revered rave culture in the world today – and assuming the role of an experimental pop auteur.
For better or worse, Zygadlo's pretty much incapable of playing straight. Kopernikuss, the album's opening track, is a simple and pretty ballad for keyboard and voice – adorned every so often with disarming pitch shifts and time-stretch FX, just because he can.
Vocals, not previously prioritised in his work, feature on every track, and at various points recall Brian Wilson, Bowie in (as it happens) his mid-70s Berlin period, Animal Collective's Panda Bear and sensitive Auto-Tune abusers of the modern age like Drake and James Blake.
Musically, you're likely to hear the gloss of RnB and revamped 80s funk: Timbaland's classic, sparse productions are present in Zygadlo's DNA, while the title track stakes out unlikely territory between DāM-FunK and Radiohead.
The spin put on these forms is very personal, though. Rarely aiming for the dancefloor, results are stilted and mannered during Tragicomedies' weakest moments, and as a whole it will likely prove a divisive album.
Yet there are undeniable hooks on cuts like The Deaf School and another quasi-ballad, On. These 13 songs are a bold leap forward for Zygadlo, and feel like a personal, intimate success.