This is dance music not for filling club floors but for filling people with a dread.
At just eight tracks, Mass Manipulation is barely more than an EP, but it’s a rich enough experience that none of that time feels wasted. Producer Isabelle Rezazadeh, better known by her stage name, REZZ, is in good company with Deadmau5’s Mau5trap records. She also comes from the same hometown as Joel Zimmerman, which may or may not be related to the fact that the road from her first self-produced singles to her first record on his label seems like a short one. She’s certainly received the seal of approval as Zimmerman sang her praises on Twitter for walking her own path creatively. She acknowledges him as an influence, along with Amon Tobin—two of Canada’s and, indeed, the world’s heaviest hitters in electronic music.
The opening track, “Relax,” is an likely candidate for an introduction to the album. Though it employs the old trope of calm, meditative instructional audio overlaid with a swinging breakbeat, it still manages to sound deeper and more intense than other tracks which follow that formula, like 12 Inch Thumpers’ “Tactile Sensem,” for example. The use of simplistic bass stabs and minimal complexity overall works well across the entire record but particularly on this track. REZZ shows a measure of restraint where an artist like Skrillex or Excision might be unable to resist the urge to let loose buckets of acid bass to predictably wash over every bar. REZZ is far more measured, calculated and deliberate. “Relax” doesn’t really go anywhere—but that’s the point.
“Diluted Brains” offers the first glimpse of the level of consistency we’re going to see in all eight tracks. The signature sound of this record would appear to be downtempo dark electro-house. The second track shows a deft hand at a deep groove that would be great for night drives or reflective moments. More reflective still is the dub-influenced echoes which open “Premonition.” About 30% of the way through the track, it changes to something a little more aggressive. Here, REZZ abandons all pretension and gives the listener something far more approachable. It’s a constantly evolving, sample-heavy old-school electronica track the likes of which hearkens back to ‘90s-era Chemical Brothers. The difference here may be related to the contributions of Knodis, it’s hard to say but the track definitely takes a stronger, moodier direction than the first two.
Old-school fans will notice that throughout the record there are either direct references or simply inspirations from the rave music of the ‘90s. From the flat break samples to simple stabs and acid arpeggios, there’s an obvious throwback to the records inspiration. REZZ takes something recognizable—something we already love—and then augments it with restrained but deliciously deep electronic bass instruments. “Drugs!” is a fairly typical electronica track which utilizes the familiar acid sound as an introduction, but then it stuns you with a wobble-bass ripped right out of the darkest, most sinister dubstep. But dubstep is dead, right? Not here.
“Livid” doubles down on the increasingly somber direction. Though it’s often said that “dark” dance music was REZZ’s forte, it’s on this track where she first really seems to let loose. The beginning of the second half of the record drops the gloves entirely with a hard-hitting acid worm and lightly distorted boom-clap drums. The rest of the second half goes in a far more atmospheric and dub direction.
It’s easy to see why Deadmau5 would have picked up on REZZ. Though the sounds across his label are distinct, they’re also somewhat complementary. If Deadmau5 himself could be said to dominate the moody house music space, REZZ offers something a little more otherworldly and stuttered and less repetitive. She doesn’t compromise, and it shows on her debut record—it would’ve been easy to make a formulaic electro-club record. But this is something that manages to feel simultaneously fresh and familiar. This is dance music not for filling club floors but for filling people with a dread they can nod along to.