You might have heard of Matan Zohar, a.k.a. Mat Zo, through tracks such as “Rebound” or “The Sky or Bipolar.” He is, for the untrained ear, a leading club DJ with killer live mixing chops like in this hour-long mix of 70 tracks.
Notably, even will.i.am wasn’t able to resist stealing his work–and stealing might have been the only way he’d have acquired those samples, as Zo keeps his distance from those pop-glam worlds of over-commercialized electronic dance music.
His taste is keen and his sound texture is exemplary, and both elements are present in his debut album Damage Control. It could even be the album that has saved the day in the DJ realm, especially after Hardwell was ranked No.1 by DJ Mag.
Damage Control continuously challenges the boundaries of EDM. It is a true collage of genres, checking trance, progressive house, funk, world, hip-hop, R&B, and rock, just to name a few.
It’s a record that makes Avicii’s revered Wake Me Up sound like kindergarten music.
In an interview with Dancing Astronaut about the album, Mat Zo expressed that he set out to demonstrate important musical influences to him such as Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk.
“It’s not really looking forward as much as it is looking back,” said Zo. “I’m trying to capture 90s albums like The Chemical Brothers [records]–give them an updated feel.”
Another cool aspect that gives Damage Control a retro vibe is the inclusion of several short under-two-minute interludes. According to Zo, it is an effort to mimic the style of early hip-hop albums. Despite their curt length, Zo considers these interludes some of his finest productions.
And spoiler alert: he might make these interludes into longer versions or club remixes.
The Music, Track by Track
To give you a full understanding of this excellent album, we’ve examined it track-by-track for you. You can also stream the recording via the Spotify link below.
“Superman Lost” begins the music journey and puts you somewhere afar and aloft, maybe on Aladdin’s magic carpet. The vaguely Middle Eastern melody and the dreamy ambient synth chords will slowly hypnotize you. The combination of mellow guitar riffs and bouncing lead synths is like the echoing voice of your subconscious leading you to the next song.
But just as you think you are falling into a deeper dream world, Mat Zo kicks you with a roaring electronic, yet funky, octave-leaping bass synth. You are still in a dream world, but just in another place. The following “Only for You ft. Rachel Collier” features Rachel’s dreamy and sassy voice with some heavy echoing delays. Elements of different styles are mixed together with perfection, and you can hear influences like Daft Punk and even Funkadelic.
The funky leaping bass is especially addictive.
The dreaminess comes to an end on Beatport’s number one track of the summer, “Easy ft. Porter Robinson.” The drum machine, the modulated voice, and the drops signal that it is time to party house style. “Caller ID,” next up, evens you out, filling you with its magical opening sitar as well as a vaguely Arabian flute theme on synth. Musically, it is a masterpiece of trap meets tribal.
“Little Damage” is one of the interludes. It begins with a sampled flute solo and is pushed, in its 30 seconds, to the peak with drum kits and low bass synth. It then immediately fades out and prepares you for the next track, “Pyramid Scheme” featuring Public Enemy’s Chuck D. According to Rolling Stone, the song even samples Public Enemy’s Can I Get a Witness, Chuck D reprising his vocals.
“The Sky ft. Linnea Schossow” is probably the dreamiest and also the longest track of the entire album. It is artistically beautiful, emotionally powerful, and incredibly badass. When the signature sub-sonic slow vibration of bass kicks in, it will instantly strikes your internal the production nerd.
“Like It Used to Be” is yet another interlude. It has a catchy funky riff that makes for a great remix, just like the flute solo in “Little Damage.” Zo has said that this track reminds him of days when he doesn’t have to worry about a thing.
“Time on Your Side ft. Janai” has a certain radiant vibe to it with some silly drum bits and flaky echo synths. The lyrics confirm that it was written for a younger audience, and urges a child not to worry so much. This may be Zo’s expression of self-reflection.
“Moderate Stimulation” begins as another interlude track with a sample from Vice President Spiro Agnew’s speech in Houston, Texas on May 22, 1970. By using this sample, Zo inflicts a sense of self-mockery on the album. At this point, by the tenth song, listeners may be tired Zo’s signature explosive awesomeness, so he drops a gentle interlude to prepare their minds for the next epic song.
In “Lucid Dreams,” Zo flips back and forth between trance and house with ease. The highlight is the texture and the unique sound Zo created. Please expect yourself to repeat this song for the next ten times.
“EZ” was produced originally as a demo track for “Easy ft. Porter Robinson.” In this version, Zo took the reprise of “Easy” and turned it into a “garage-y, bassy UK track” remix. Comparing to Easy, Zo took some edge off the bass and gave this song a smooth and easy feel.
“Hurricanes ft. Eyes That Lie” is a remake of the song that Zo produced for Eyes That Lie. Just like EZ, it contains those soft guitar riffs and ambient synth chords. Zo was probably aiming for a more laid-back track before the end of the album.
This laid-back vibe continues in “Fall Into Dreams,” with less bass and synth, which highlights the lo-fi recording of Peter Josef’s mellow vocal lines as well as the guitar riff.
And finally, last track, “Time Dilation” has an upbeat synth and with complimentary bass. The track gradually leads the listener back to the energy radiated at the beginning of the album. The distant repetition of “ecstasy” again and again coupled with the dreamy ambient synth will surely put a listener into a trance state. It ultimately eases off slowly to an end of quiet and positive satisfaction.
The title Damage Control has double significances for Mat Zo. First, as he expressed in an interview, its production gave Zo the means and the courage to overcome difficult times in his life. Second, it is fair to say that Zo’s new album is the damage control to the entire EDM industry. In this age of commercialized EDM music, songs generally consist of simple elements that lack in melodic beauty, a trend standardized by the Dutch producers. Whether Zo admits it or not, Damage Control brings hope to the world of electronic music. It is a tribute to his personal music heroes, a sound experiment, a doctoral thesis of his musical talents, and lastly, it’s a low key statement that the EDM world forgot how beautiful music can be.
Damage Control is available for purchase on iTunes. Mat Zo also launched its world tour, with the dates posted below. For more Mat Zo live remix sets, check out his Electric Zoo remix and the Mat Zo Mix.
14-Nov, Sunshine Theater, Albuquerque, NM
15-Nov, Plum, El Paso, TX
16-Nov, Stereo LIVE, Houston, TX
17-Nov, Haven, Austin, TX
18-Nov, Heaven, Lubbock, TX
19-Nov, Sisu, Dallas, TX
21-Nov, LIV, Miami, FL
22-Nov, Simons, Gainseville, FL
23-Nov, Amphitheatre, Tampa, FL
30-Nov, Stereosonic, Perth, Australia
01-Dec, Stereosonic, Sydney, Australia
07-Dec, Stereosonic, Melbourne, Australia
07-Dec, Stereosonic, Adelaide, Australia
08-Dec, Stereosonic, Brisbane, Australia
12-Dec, Royale, Boston, MA
13-Dec, LIT, Philadelphia, PA
14-Dec, Guvernment, Toronto, ON, Canada
19-Dec, Ultra Bar, Washington, DC
20-Dec, Pacha, New York, NY
21-Dec, Roxy, Orlando, FL
Article by Jason Jia