Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin are back to wreck heads, in gloriously agonizing slow-motion. Jose Ramon Caamaño
Zonal, “Wrecked” (Relapse)
Zonal is the logical progression of the extreme electronic subversion enacted over the last three decades by English producers Kevin Martin and Justin K. Broadrick. Both of these badasses collaborated most fortuitously as Techno Animal in the ’90s and ’00s, as well as in myriad other projects: God, Ice, the Curse of the Golden Vampire, and the Sidewinder. They’ve also produced adventurous records in countless other configurations, 98 percent of which are worth your time. These tireless creators are responsible for several works of mind-fucking music in various mutations, from dub, IDM, noise-jazz, hip-hop, and more.
Such is Martin and Broadrick’s luck that what should’ve been Techno Animal’s big breakthrough—an album titled The Brotherhood of the Bomb, released by large NYC indie label Matador—had the horrific misfortune of dropping on September 11, 2001. Yeah, you could say its coming-out party got overshadowed.
Anyway, Zonal have returned on another sizable indie imprint, Relapse, and the good news is, their latest album, Wrecked (out October 25), is a slow-motion stealth missile to your solar plexus. The group calls it “A parallel dreamworld where DJ Muggs meets Basic Channel, with Scientist at the controls.” Yowsa. The dominant mode is tar-pit funk crossed with bleak dub and isolationist ambient. Riveting agitational poet/musician Moor Mother appears on six tracks, adding withering wisdom to Zonal’s post-apocalyptic soundworld.
“Wrecked” is one of the heaviest specimens of what music scholars once called “horrorcore hip-hop.” But this juggernaut of distortion and elephantine beats is too, uh, wrecked to welcome a rapper to its trudging-down-death-row momentum. A morbid strain of funk struggles under the oppressive low-end weight, but when the ambient coda drifts in during the final minute, it feels as if clouds of filth have evaporated and a hard-won peace has been attained. Fans of the mighty Scorn at Mick Harris’s ’90s peak and those into transcendentally dismal music in general should explore this zeitgeisty broadside.