Mat Zo remains one of the most experimental producers in the game, and he never forfeits a catchy melody for groundbreaking sound. He’s back on the scene with a new EP, a four-track collection of crisp, layered fantasies called Tracing Steps that bridges the gap between his sonic past and his adventurous future. Zo calls the project a nod to his “Damage Control” days, and at an average length of six-and-a-half minutes, these tunes aren’t skimpy.
“To make this EP, I tried to find a place inside my heart that was still an innocent little kid in awe of electronic music,” Zo tells Billboard Dance. “Because of this, there’s a whiff of 2003 to 2008 about the EP, since that’s when I started producing. Looking back at that era, probably with rose tinted glasses, I felt like more emphasis was put on creating interesting sounds and there was more of a pioneer spirit, and that’s what I wanted to recapture.”
Titular opening track “Tracing Steps” sounds like a rave held in a Super Mario warp pipe. Its childlike innocence is embolded by edgy synths and ecstatic sound design. It’s both futuristic and nostalgic, as warm and cozy as summer days spent surfing the Web. “Heat Wave” is glitchy and exploratory with a touch of MIDI. If Mat Zo’s life were an RPG, this would be a good on-the-road theme. Third track “Lust” is a sexual, bass-heavy, mechanical groove. It’s heavily reminiscent of 2010-era electro house with a very-warbled vocoder topline that reeks of G-funk, while EP closer “Deep Inside” delivers interstellar disco with a side of bombastic blast.
“For the last three years, I’ve been studying the sound design and mixdowns of Noisia, and also my friend and collaborator Kill the Noise basically trying to learn how to produce bass music consistently well,” Zo continues. “I pretty much abandoned all four-to-the-floor music during this time, and I kind of fell out of love with it. Recently however, I feel like I got to a place where I have a bit of theory to what I’m doing instead of just shooting in the dark, and I wanted to go back to the styles of music a lot of my fans know me for. I wanted to see if I could apply the sonic landscaping techniques I learned over the last three years to make something that I’d be happy with, as well as the die-hard trance fans.”
Tracing Steps is out in full on Zo’s Mad Zoo label. Listen to each stellar track below.