Review: James Zabiela – Vines EP

As James Zabiela prepares the release of his latest Vines EP, for his own Born Electric imprint, The Waveform Transmitter’s Simon Huxtable takes a listen to a labour of love from the British producer.

There are a few artists out there in clubland that still make my belly fizz when I hear they have new music out. James Zabiela has long been at the top of that list and his recent Balance Compilation showed that despite shying away from the spotlight over the last few years, he’s lost none of the potent talent he had. Speaking with him backstage at Space in Ibiza, in 2016, after his incendiary set for the closing party, he told me he’d reworked every track he played – no other DJ puts in the time and effort like this.

So, hearing that the compilation mix was coming was amazing. To hear he is releasing music from that insane mix on his own label left me gasping for air like a Southern Belle in a 1950s black and white movie “I do declare!” Vines represents the first release on Born Electric in some time. By his own admission, its a labour of love rather than a functioning scheduled label, even so, his lofty position in the scene affords him a certain level of attention and in choosing two of his favourite artists to remix a deeply personal project like Vines means assured chart success.

“Vines was originally an unfinished piece re-appropriated for the [Balance] mix that didn’t really make sense until I built the remainder of the song into the mix.” James says, “It only felt ‘finished’ after I came up with some lyrics and spent time mangling them through my OP1 sampler.” The final result is a beguiling slice of electronica; equal parts beautiful and fragile, wildly original and deeply personal. It leaps from the speakers in the way a favourite rock song or pop ballad has deep rooted memories but feels elegant and fresh on repeated listens. Whether it’s taken on by today’s DJ fraternity who seem to err on the side of caution is yet to be seen, but for his hardcore fan base, this will be their record of the year.

Earlham Mystics is modular-fan, Luke Abbott’s new ‘back to basics’ project. Together with emerging ambient artist HOLOVR, Zabiela chose their tracks to feature on Balance, so the decision to involve them in the remix package is inspired. Luke opts for an upbeat organic house flavour which juxtaposes the original’s melancholic tones perfectly. Paradoxically, HOLOVR opts for a spacey, almost classically progressive take, kind of abandoning his ambient roots for more commercial sounds. However, the resulting remix is an expansive soundscape of multi-layered synth work and dreamy atmospherics which slowly unfold and captivate.

A fine EP which has the potential to appeal to a cross-section of music lovers. Top darts. You can take a listen to snippets from the EP, below. Make sure you support the artist and label, by grabbing yourself a copy of the release, here.

Author: Ste Knight

Editor at The Waveform Transmitter. Lover of acid basslines, cavernous kick drums, and dark rooms. Cut his teeth to Surgeon's blistering techno assault at T-Funkshun in Liverpool and hasn't stopped for breath since.

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