The ZGRT single “HARD POWER” is written by Brooklyn based songwriter, synthesist and producer Zachery Allan Starkey, with production assistance and final mix by DFA’s Gavin Russom (Black Meteoric Star/LCD Soundsystem/DFA Records). Vocals were recorded and engineered by William Andrew Raposo of Midnight Magic. The 9 minute track is meant to be a bold reflection of America’s role in never ending wars abroad and its surveillance state at home. ZGRT was founded in late 2014 by Starkey, combining electronic synthesis and aspects of techno, house, and post-punk with thought provoking and subversive lyrics.
If you’re from the new school of electronic music and delve into ZGRT’s quirky 8 track album, you would probably end your first encounter more puzzled with it than when you started. If like me you grew up on Depeche Mode, New Order, Joy Division and to some extent even Frankie Goes To Hollywood, you will totally understand what’s going here. Having said that, this is certainly a diverse, strange and entertaining album for 2017, which rises triumphantly track after track.
As such an eclectic and innovative work, what “HARD POWER” does not suffer from is lack of a unified theme with a clear direction and purpose. If an album is written in 2017, produced in 80s and released in 90s, which decade is it from?
If it features 80s style electro keyboards and 90s angst-styled rock vocals, is it electro or rock? If it’s dark yet uplifting, will it make you happy or sad? I’m glad to say that “HARD POWER” is all of these things and more.
This album showcases ZGRT’s craft, filtered, distilled and purified. The epic ambitions of the ominous synth lines, beautifully resonating vocals and crystal clear electronic effects all float gracefully over murky growling bass lines.
Tempos rise, fall to the depths, and rise again, sometimes within the space of a single song. Anonymous interludes bind the songs together with elegance and subtlety. It’s darkly mysterious, evocative muscular and sullen in places.
“Ghost Money” opens up the void and is an excellent introduction to this finely-tuned blend of up-tempo electro music and something rather more shaded, reclusive and vicious. “Black Angel’s” propulsive rhythm and darkly uplifting chorus referring to the bleakness of stark realism makes this a very dramatic song indeed, yet still one that you can dance to.
“Game Over” descends further into the mire with its tense, rhythmic verses chugging along with dirty, droning whirrs, while the voice sails full blast overhead. Underpinned by a stomping guttural synth-riff, “On Top” sounds raw and primal. “Kiss the Camera” is a shadowy masterpiece of pumping synths and pounding bass effects. If you ever want the definitive ZGRT track, this is it – the supreme height of a glorious, uplifting, sinister feeling.
If there was ever an album that bridges various electronic decades successfully in just nine songs, “HARD POWER” is it. It’s not just because of the number of excellent highpoints scattered casually all over the album; it’s also the absence of any real flaws or filler that makes it such an easy and compulsive listen from start to finish.