ZHU broke onto the scene hard and fast. His enigmatic and anonymous debut helped build hype around his sound. Immediately fans believed ZHU was a side project of Skrillex. His music was just that good. The release of ‘Wasted' only pushed him farther into fame as the song broke into the mainstream consciousness with its relatable lyrics and infectious beat.
Then the unthinkable happened. ZHU revealed his face.
ZHU Matures As An Artist
The man behind the mask was not a well-known superstar. He was just a new and incredibly talented artist. An interesting thing happened next. Even with his identity revealed an air of mystery around ZHU continued to grow. The release of his first LP GENERATIONWHY further cemented ZHU's place among the royalty of top-tier electronic acts. The album was funky, unique and blended a wide range of styles into a handful of songs.
The year following the release of GENERATIONWHY saw a further merging of R&B and Rap with EDM. It was more clear than ever before that ZHU was not only a massive talent but a trendsetter as well. Songs like ‘Hometown Girl' showed a different and original side of ZHU. His works were invented and in many ways risky – but the risk paid off. ZHU soon found himself booked outside of the EDM world, playing festivals such as Coachella and Austin City Limits.
The Era of RINGOS DESERT
After a few fantastic EP's, ZHU debuted the next era in his journey as an artist. The EP RINGOS DESERT PT. 1, which we would soon discover was the first half of a complete album, took inspiration from the wilds of desert environments. ZHU was able to encapsulate the mysterious draw of some of the harshest places in the world into his music. Pulling inspiration from ancient stories and the traditional melodies of nomadic cultures, the EP was an instant hit.
ZHU took the desert theme a step party two weeks ago when he held an all-night party for a few lucky hundred fans in the middle of the Mojave Desert at Joshua Tree, CA. His set from that night can be seen here. This Friday, September 7, he released the final half of RINGOS DESERT, and with it, ZHU has once again demonstrated he is not afraid to take risks, reinvent genres, and remain as a powerful yet mysterious presence in dance music.
ZHU – RINGOS DESERT
The release of RINGOS DESERT was interesting because the world had a month to digest the first half of the album in the form of an EP. Instead of releasing an additional EP, ZHU decided to release a full album. For this reason, it is clear that RINGOS DESERT is meant to be listened to as a story, as a comprehensive picture.
Evoking Imagery Of Landscapes And Past Eras
The album is unlike anything I have heard in quite a long time. In many ways to reminds of first hearing Avicii's ‘Wake Me Up'. It blends new genres of music in a way that I could have never expect. ‘Ghost In My Bed' demonstrates this concept better than any other track on the album. The record starts off with an acoustic guitar riff and whistling, it instantly evokes imagery of the old west. A sun setting on a sleepy, dusty little town. The guitar riff is soon overtaken by a driving beat and fades completely away upon the introduction of vocals. It's captivating and emotional in a way that I cannot quite put my finger on. I feel something though, something different – and for me, that demonstrates innovation is at play.
Western and desert imagery is not the only tool used in the production of RINGOS DESERT. Towards the closing of the album, ‘Coming Home' can be found. The record features gorgeous vocals by Majid Jordan. It relies on a late eighties vibe that is backed up by a melancholic synth riff that is ever present throughout. The constant and repeating lyrics are both hypnotic and thoughtful.
ZHU features many artists throughout RINGOS DESERT. While fans are familiar with his collaboration with Tame Impala, ‘My Life', the song takes on a deeper meaning as the closing track to such an interesting album. TOKiMONSTA is featured on the albums hardest cut, ‘Light It Up'. The record is a smattering of both trap and house. It is stark and industrial in many ways – but works perfectly.
The Big Picture: Should You Listen?
I am sure at this point in the review, you can understand that my feelings around RINGOS DESERT are quite positive. While occasionally I felt tracks lacked variety or were out of place given the overall picture being painted by the album, my criticisms stop there.
ZHU has fused R&B beautifully with electronic music once again. Furthermore, he has taken melodies which would widely be considered anachronisms and fused them masterfully with his signature style of mysterious vocal house. Overall ZHU has recreated himself. After revealing his identity, ZHU has once again obscured his artistic character in a veiled mist of curious inspirations from uncommon eras, landscapes, and genres.
Listen to the full album below as it is meant to be enjoyed – from start to finish. If you are like me, somewhere along the way, you might just find you are listening to one of the most impressive electronic albums to be released in 2018.