Each morning, new records are put on the stores’ shelves. So that today’s record shops are splitting at the seams in their effort to contain pop’s past and present. It has a long history, and a promising future.
A future being designed by architects like Zaska. Who raid the past for inspiration but are not bound to its blueprints. So they can sketch their own visions in their music.
As Zaska does on ‘It Takes A Village,’ a concept album about the birth of his first child. Where the present is constructed out of the past’s grooves and today’s technology. The rhythms flow from the age-old springs of soul, funk, pop, and hip-hop. And are turned on the 21st century’s lathe. To become smooth and frictionless as velvet. But as vital as your pulse.
Close To You blends into following track 12 Weeks. Morphing from the former’s ingenious guitar chords and horn arrangements into the latter’s muzak-parody. A wry, irreverent move – Zaska turning his own work into an elevator-jingle.
He intones over 12 Weeks’s now impotent rhythm “Jesus, you think the doctor picks this music?” Making a mock out of his own effort. It is a bizarre moment of meta-humour. As if he is showing the record its reflection. Holding a looking glass up to show us that, in the grand scheme of the cosmos, we are but human. And while our achievements deserve due recognition, they are human too. Even when those achievements are as intelligent as Zaska’s own.
‘It Takes A Village’ startles with its cleverness. But is neither condescending nor patronising. Instead it inspires laughter and wonder at the simple inventiveness of the album. Where each idea – and they may be but a fistful of notes – is given its proper space and respect. Handled with expertise by the many guests who feature on the album. Including members of Barq and Wyvern Lingo, Loah, and Louise Gaffney. Each of whom approach Zaska’s music with respect.
On No Easy Way Out, every inch of music is given its moment. From the warm vocals of Precious Okpaje, to the hanging cadence that ushers in the harmonies. When Neil Dorrington’s bass comes in the groove hardens. And the track seems to grow legs. Limbs strong enough to carry it across the rhythmic shifts of its final minutes.
And into the single It’s Ridiculous. Where Louise Gaffney’s processed vocals glide past. Like a breeze cradling a lyric. At ground-level the rhythm section – Dorrington on bass and Tommy Gray on drums – steer the groove. As if they had a saddle on its back and a bit in its mouth. They lead the caravan of music through the song’s runtime. A wagon-trail of creativity moving into a frontier that is not entirely alien. But that, until now, nobody had thought to look at through a kaleidoscope.
‘It Takes A Village’ is sophisticated, nuanced, and very clever. Zaska has created the present, the now, out of the past’s stone and today’s cement. Only through hindsight could these disparate genres be put together. And only through skill and work could it be done with as much finesse as this. There are no post-surgery scars. Only the flow of the music. Stretching backwards and forwards like those record-store shelves. Drawing from and adding to the pop canon.