Album Review: Illusion of Depth by Mat Zo
Since the mid 2000s, Mat Zo has been a standout producer and dj. He is one of the most prolific figures in the dance scene today. Not only is he a dj and producer that runs his own label, Mad Zoo, he also teaches music production on his streams. Recently he has adapted to the current state of the world by putting on virtual festivals in Minecraft. On October 9th Mat Zo released his highly anticipated 3rd studio album Illusion of Depth on Anjunabeats.
I’m not sure the first time I heard a Mat Zo track, but I have been a huge fan for as long as I can remember. From time to time I’ve watched some of his videos where he breaks down a track, showing a few of the processes he uses to create music. I have a much better understanding of how to write fuller sounding songs as a result.
Some of the tracks on the album were previously released elsewhere, but they are slightly different on this album, because he blends the songs together, making for a continuous mix. Mat took the time to make his album feel like a whole project, with great results.
The first track, “In Media Res,” starts out by grabbing the listener’s attention with a jarring two-note repetition. Once the beat hits, it feels like listening to an electro house song from the early 2000s. My favorite part? When the track goes from completely silent to a hard hitting beat, while the synth gets more and more warbled. At the end, there are even some old-school break vibes before it sounds like it’s melting away.
One of the first tracks released ahead of the album was “Love Songs”. This progressive house track is phenomenal. The vocals are so catchy, it’s been stuck in my head numerous times. I especially love the guitar and keys throughout the track.
“The Next Chapter,” featuring GQ, is a hard hitting, progressive trance track. It has a sick driving bass line and the toms always get me moving. If the world wasn’t in its current, state you would definitely hear this in clubs and festivals. “Problems,” featuring Olan, has been out for a few months. The vocals are impeccable, at times the focal point of the song, at others adding rich layering. I really enjoy the way the bass is so simple and constantly manipulated throughout. The song builds up during the verses makes the chorus even more explosive. I have a feeling we will be hearing this track a lot over the next few years.
The first time I heard “Bruxism” I freaked out. I am a sucker for bass heavy songs, and this song delivers in every way. The various ways the bass is distorted and manipulated shows Mat’s vast understanding of sound design. There are heavy elements of acid house and breakbeats, all while mixing in lots of psychedelic synths. The most chaotic parts of the track sound almost like a jam band rocking out. Mat has a way of using organic sounds in his music creating a much more dynamic feel.
“Fly While You’re Still Free” is a wonderfully constructed progressive house track. The effects used on the guitar riffs stand out the most to me. It sounds like nothing I’ve heard in dance music. I really like the message in the lyrics too. Simple and wholesome is sometimes the best way to write. “Petrushka” was initially released on Anjunabeats Vol 15. back in July. This uplifting trance track has a solid, gritty bassline throughout. The main melody during the breakdown subtlety creeps in and plays throughout the rest of the song. It reminds me of a lot of the trance I listened to in the early 2000s.
“Dangerous Feeling” starts out like a magical breakbeat song with distorted vocals jumping all over the place. At some point it morphs into more of a house track. There is a good blend of familiar sounds and strange mystical synthesizers.
“Colours,” featuring Olan, is a fun progressive house song with lots of nu disco influences. The vocals are sweet and playful. The fluttering arpeggios bring the track together and always put a smile on my face. “Paralysis,” also featuring Olan, starts out sounding like a chillout track and morphs into something like a psychedelic jam band. The drums and guitar give it a full band effect.
The closing track, “Begin Again,” sends us off with beautiful bells cascading into a tasty bassline that my husband said reminds him of old warehouse rave music.
Illusion of Depth by Mat Zo is probably my favorite album of the year. Every song is great or amazing. The sound design is top tier. If you like dance music Illusion of Depth is a must listen.