Artist: James Zabiela
Title: Weird Science
Label: Renaissance Recordings
By: Devon Shaw | 16 September 2006
  • A1: Weird Science (Original Mix)
  • A2: Weirder Science
  • B1: Weird Science (Meat Katie Mix)
  • B2: Werid Science (Future Funk Squad Mix)

James Zabiela "Weird Science"

Out Now on Renaissance Recordings

The man needs no introduction. Afflicted with random bouts of inspiration everywhere from the sounds his Pioneer DJM-800 spits out to running dialogue from the Dr. Who television series, James Zabiela is laying the groundwork of a living legend. His sets are laced with veritable styles of music seamlessly woven to create mind-bending performances, much to the amazement of veteran clubgoers who thought they'd heard it all. James steps back into the studio for 'Weird Science,' and offers it up additionally as a remix contest through The bar is set with this release, so what does it have to offer? The answer is, not much. This is great news for up-and-coming producers, and bad news for DJs.

The title track 'Weird Science' kicks off with a DJ-friendly introduction of sharp claps, random stabs and zaps. The bass jumps in abruptly, taking hold of the melody and leading the track through a minimalist overcast of effects and sampled vocal hooks. Slight breakbeats tease their way in for 4 to 8 bars at a time, quickly returning to a balanced 4/4 attack. An obligatory breakdown completes the formula, and returns the track to a sad monotony.

Following is the stripped-down counterpart 'Weirder Science.' Much in the spirit of Leftfield's early remixes, many of the elements remain the same as the original, while odds and ends are ran through a panel of filters and miscellaneous forms of digital destruction. The result is a more acidic melody, and the bass not quite as overbearing as the original. A fine layer in Ableton for sure, but on it's own nothing more than a momentary curiosity.

Third up is the first of two included reworkings, this one by renowned breaks artist Mark Pember, better known as Meat Katie. Rolling with the same subdued tempo, Pember brings in a complimentary break pattern and a few flashes of high-spectrum melody riffs to spice things up. A brief breakdown ensues with the company of a few effects, and the track plods to a conclusion like a runner stalled at the finish line.

Light at the end of the tunnel at last, it's Glen Nicholls of Future Funk Squad bringing sunshine to this bleak matrix. A syncopated, punchy breakbeat starts off, still holding ground in the low BPM range. The teased vocal carries throughout the track, playing host to miscellaneous stutters, effects and brief, haunting synth stabs. Not Future Funk Squad's strongest effort and certainly not the most energetic, but sufficient enough to drive a dance floor and save an otherwise desolate release.

What does this mean? Nothing, really. James Zabiela continues to push the limits of innovation and acceptance with every mix set he does, every gig he plays and every piece of hardware he lays his hands on. Unfortunately in this case, that didn't translate well into musicianship, and only provided enough material to yield a pair of perfunctory mixes. It's not that the release is bad -- some DJs will certainly find the niche sound of value to their sets -- it's uninspiring and bland. Because Zabiela's other work continues to be the complete opposite, I recommend sticking to that for now and would not look back at this release as a reflection of his true talent.

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