Digital artist ZHU has at all times appeared in direction of the long run, however 2020 gave him extra of a cause than ever. Whereas trapped inside for many of final 12 months, the Grammy-nominated virtuoso solid his newest LP, DREAMLAND 2021, with the intention of taking physique, thoughts, and soul to a extra optimistic soundscape of his personal design.
“I don’t imagine that music, dancing, [or] the liberty of expression will probably be suppressed for for much longer,” ZHU stated in a press assertion. “They’ll’t—that’s in opposition to human nature.”
ZHU started his challenge with the intention of lighting up dancefloors, believing of their energy to transcend and allow individuals to come back collectively. Cultivating sounds by means of this mantra, the acclaimed artist has created one other progressive murals that seamlessly combines style, model and temper. DREAMLAND 2021 is made up of dirty techno and sweaty home tracks, all falling underneath a darkish pop aesthetic.
The album opens with “Misplaced It,” which leads with acquainted synth notes earlier than permitting a grungy bassline to settle in. Sifting by the sultry manufacturing are ZHU’s personal haunting vocals, now not an accent to his personal digital music. On DREAMLAND 2021, ZHU absolutely fleshes out his vocal expertise on a scope not heard in treasured releases.
“Distant Lights” follows, providing extra upbeat home manufacturing and a blared rock intro harking back to the cinematic highs of Daft Punk or Justice. ZHU’s vocals return as a lead because the observe builds towards reckless, ecstatic abandon.
“Blue Dream” has a extra vibrant, tech home really feel. The observe rides ZHU’s vocals, which ship hotly-clasped moments of tense synths and rumbling basslines. “How Does It Really feel,” a collaboration with fellow crossover famous person Channel Tres, returns to a extra palatable pop really feel. This Disclosure-esque observe gives snappy kicks, lead vocals by Tres and ethereal harmonizes from ZHU.
This primary of 5 options unveils the collaborative strategy ZHU was going for in DREAMLAND 2021. “You’ll be able to’t generate the identical form of group and connection with out different individuals,” he stated. “Digital music is about sharing. I’m not making an attempt to be egocentric with it.”
Since its launch in late March, “Sky is Crying” has amassed over 3.2 million streams worldwide. Somber grooves and a thumping beat provide a cool backing to this darkish electropop observe. The track additionally finds ZHU singing alongside celebrated Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna.
“Candy Like Honey” maybe attracts probably the most comparisons from pop famous person The Weeknd, who looks like a foregone collab at this level. The observe opens with melodramatic piano strikes alongside gothic vocals, the place we as soon as once more faucet into ZHU’s potential within the pop realm.
Whereas the vibrating home beat will draw the eye of digital listeners, his vox appear nicely suited to enchantment to the plenty. On “Yours,” meditative keys present the backing to a tradeoff between ZHU and Arctic Lake. The observe conveys rigidity between lust and the ache for love, and likewise sees the return of Mitch Bell, who performed guitar on ZHU’s 2016 “NEON CITY” tour.
“SOCO” thrives on extra minimal home and vocal composition. “Solely,” one of many report’s 2020 singles and a collaboration with Tinashe, is an R&B-infused radio banger. Pulsing bass and seductive sound design transcend this and “Zhudio54” from being easy, moth-eaten pop hits. Fairly than catering to the mianstream, ZHU’s tracks appear to carry all listeners underneath one roof with the intention to rave.
“Good 4 U” opens with brooding piano earlier than distorted, distanced vocals name out forward of the primary non-house beat of the album. The observe develops a extra hip-hop really feel, foreshadowing the graceful rap contributions of Kota the Friend earlier than the report wraps up with “I Want That.”
Its closing observe can be an additional departure from the home stylings of DREAMLAND 2021. Eerie piano dances over one other hip-hop beat, offering a luxurious environment to tie a bow on the album. Blaring synths and hypnotic, distorted bars on the finish add a bit extra hype, if solely to remind listeners that this journey was supposed to unite as reside music returns.
“If individuals can dance at their home with this music blasting on the sound programs of their dwelling rooms, that’s an incredible first step to returning to that power,” he says. “All you want is a few audio system and one other particular person. That’s sufficient.”