DJ Obake “H” (Zoom Lens)
To the uninitiated, DJ Obake’s latest album must sound like an intercepted transmission from another dimension, a kaleidoscopic blend of disparate elements — traces of Yasutaka Nakata’s synth-pop, shoegaze and DJ Shadow chief among them — that cohere to form something that sounds pretty unique.
Only it isn’t. Trans-continental collective Zoom Lens has specialized in this kitchen-sink approach to electronic music since its inception in 2009, and DJ Obake is most definitely working within its formula, but he works within it so well that the lack of surprises is not any kind of mark against the album. In fact, it may in fact be the best example of the label’s sound; failing that, it’s certainly the most refined.
While he spends most of the album crafting instrumental trip-hop sample collages, the album’s finest moment finds him effortlessly sliding into the role of pop producer. Lead single “Voyager” rides the wave of an arena-ready synth hook and an invigorating blend of IDM (intelligent dance music) percussion, sampled live drums and one of the album’s many excellent uses of the Amen break to five blissful minutes of J-pop perfection. The vocals are buried deep in the mix as per shoegaze tradition, but it’s only appropriate that the singer stay in the background — “Voyager” is DJ Obake’s moment to shine, it would be wrong for anyone else to make a pass at stealing his well-deserved spotlight.
While “Voyager” makes an obvious lead-in when promoting the album, there are few weak points and no real missteps across the board. As with labelmate Meishi Smile’s 2014 release “Lust,” “H” is an album with a title that implies eroticism yet sounds as innocent as first love; the Zoom Lens aesthetic has always been about that which seems contradictory, until you realize that it is, in fact, possible to be all things at once. (Devon Fisher)