I really liked the album Circle that Boom Bip and Dose One released back in 1996. That was some strange hip-hop / sound collage with surreal dark rap. I liked Dose One's next project, Themselves, but for some reason just never followed up with Boom Bip. I guess this is because i don't really follow hip-hop, so i am not always aware of what the musicians are doing.
That said, if i didn't know that Zig Zaj was classified as hip-hop, i would not call it such. The music here is lush and composed of layers that sound like, well, a regular four or five piece band played it. Did Boom Bip do all of this himself and then assemble it on a computer? What this is, honestly, is a great indie rock record. Let's examine the tracks.
The record starts off with starts with some electro noodling before a faint picked guitar comes in. The guitar is by Mike Noyce, who is also in Bon Iver, and is the first of the collaborators credited on the album. The tune is called All Hands, and eventually a drum kick in along with wordless vocals. Noyce plays some complex guitarwork as the songs gets dense, with many layers all clattering against each other. A good start.
The next tune is a fast rocker, started off with drums flying and guitars whirring, until a deep voice gets layered in, singing slowly. The songs is called Goodbye Lovers and Friends and the guest vocalist is Alex K from Franz Ferdinand, who puts in a great performance. This is an awesome song in a mid-tempoed rocker sort of way.
Pele starts with a deep bass grove, clattering percussion, and some wordless singing. The song has a nice monotonous beat and crunchy spastic guitar, which gets all chimey in the middle of the tune, as if Boom Bip is suddenly channeling The Chameleons or For Against. This is an epic track.
A deep ambient drone kicks off Do As I Do, meandering briefly before tremoloed guitar, a droning organ, and some faster electro beats come in. Then a female voice becomes buried in the mix, muttering the words. This is Welsh singer Cate Le Bon, and she does a great job, as the organ drones and the beats thrust the song forward inexorably. This song is really pretty in a post Fever Ray sort of way.
Reveal starts with a metronomic beat and some fuzzy keys. This is a helluva beat, just laying down a great groove that a squealing layer keyboard drone wanders over... It grows very nicely. The keyboards grow to dominate Manabozh, a song that starts with a lolloping drum beat that reminds me a lot of what Ringo was doing on Sgt. Peppers. But it is a keyboard drone that drives this, deep and low, almost industrial. Apparently this is someone called Money Mark. Huh. Well, his playing here would not have been out of place on a Skinny Puppy tune. Then again, the voice here is also very distorted, fuzzy and dark, so i guess that adds to the industrial vibe.
Boom Bip brings in two collaborators on New Order: Luke Steel (guitarist and vocalist in two bands that i have never heard of called The Empire of the Sun and Sleepy Jackson) and Josh Kinghoffer (guitarist in The Red Hot Chili Peppers). They add some indie rock vocals and nice, crunchy guitarwork, but Boom Bip outshines them both. The beats on this song are funky and steady, reminding me of Setting Sun by The Chemical Brothers. In addition to the truly great rhythm, there is a mellow part in the middle of the song that has some kind of sample and oohing keyboards that really would not be out of place on a record by M83. Good stuff.
After giving us quality indie rock, Boom Bip turns his attention to synthpop with Automaton. The keyboards on this tune shine in a mid 1980s way, and the beat is a syncopated drum machine hit. I almost expect to hear Simon Le Bon or David Gahan start singing. And then at the end of the tune Boom Bip layers in some echoed guitar and standard drumming, as the song suddenly transitions from Depeche Mode to U2. I know that description sounds odd, but Boom Bip pulls it off.
Mixing it up yet again, Tumtum, is a long wavering drone with echoed percussion, not unlike mid-1990s Orb. At just under ten minutes, this is the longest track on the record by far, as well as the most ambient.
And finally the record wraps up with Mascot And The Moth, a mid-tempoed song with just a hint of IDM glitchiness thrown into a standard Boom Bip sound collage. It is decent, but not the best song here.
All i can say is, wow. Each time i listen to this record, i am impressed by both the quality and the variety. Even though the different songs bounce back and forth between different sub-genres, there is a unifying feel that i can only sum up as "Boom Bip-ishness". I am so amazed at this record, that i now want to go and track down the stuff he made between this and Circle.