Album review: Dreamdrops

Zenchuck pulls a wide range of influences into conventional downtempo

Dreamdrops, the latest release from Vancouver based producer Zenchuck is a dive into an otherworldly experience of lite psychedelia and experimentation loosely based in a hip-hop context. The album is a marriage of different influences coalescing into a relaxed and organic soundscape ripe with fruitful ideas.

The record takes note of influences that are perhaps foreign to a western pallet but reimagines them in a way conducive to a vague semblance of familiarity. The composition and atmosphere of the music is not dissimilar to the proclivities of prominent downtempo artists in the late aughts and early part of the 2010s such as Emancipator and Bonobo. But where Zenchuck is able to pull ahead of the pack is the ability to incorporate a seemingly disparate range of musical influence mix and blend them into a seamless where they fit so well, they seldom announce themselves on the forefront.

Those subtle moving parts come in the form of echoed xylophone on the track Turqoister and as a breathy pan flute on tracks like Minuscule Mules in Blue and Hang Loose Nous amongst others. The key to Zenchuck’s success is the subtle ways in which he’s able to weave these little unconventional pieces into the music while simultaneously not drawing overt attention to the foreign components of the music that result in the alien yet familiar soundscape.

Perhaps the most comfortable and relatable aspect of the music found throughout the record is the unrelenting stutter and stammering of the drum kit. Zenchuck’s drum programming doesn’t take any risks and stays well within the bounds of modern downtempo but that is one of the reasons this is a particularly exemplary aspect of the record. Zenchuck proves that he’s adept at drum programming without being showy. Album opener, The Surreal Decline of Humanity showcases the duality of Zenchuck’s utilization of muted live sounding drums with the pairing of irreverent and a prominent 808 drum machine.

Dreamdrops is an album that works just as well as background music as it does for intense listening. The sheer attention to detail on this record renders in engaging enough to require multiple listens to fully grasp the intricacies of what is happening, while Zenchuck’s ability as a downtempo producer shines through and ensures the parts are not greater than the sum. And when it comes down to it, the sum is a fantastic relaxing downtempo release.

8.4/10 – Sunny day in a zen garden