reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
London-based producer Zeb Wayne and Moroccan-born vocalist Ziwi released the well-received Wulfman EP back in 2017 under the name ZW, but now they have a debut long player in the bag, the first release to mark the relaunch of Radio Slave’s Pyramids Of Mars label.
Wayne revealed that the album was written in a matter of weeks, but that recording took several years to complete. He describes ‘a reflection of both that journey and life as a whole’, with ‘moments of simplicity and complexity, light and darkness, joy and sorrow’.
What’s the music like?
This Playlist Is Private certainly tells a story. It is ideally paced, and has an intriguing blend of musical elements. After an instrumental Intro the microphone passes to Ziwi so the story can be told in song, after which we get an atmospheric Outro at the end. Downtempo soul is the overriding form, but there are cinematic touches, smoky atmospherics, subtle grooves and even a sense of cabaret in the way Ziwi brings each of the songs to life.
Love Spillover is a great example of their craft, a beauty with persuasive vocals and a steady, loping tread to the beats. Float bares its soul over minimal backing, while Prisms and People Person are a little reminiscent of fka Twigs’ first album in its vocal twists and turns.
Ziwi’s voice is the obvious reason to stop and listen to this album. It is a beauty, a versatile instrument, and the words are always clear. Yet it would not work so well without Zeb Wayne’s sensitive production, as he knows when to treat the voice a bit, spreading it across the stereo picture. The instrumentation is a healthy blend of analogue and digital, opening out to widescreen strings on People Person and imuR but then closing in to the intimate asides of Maybe Next Time and Keep Calling. Wayne’s approach is instinctive and fresh, and on songs like Wulfman the listener gets the sensation of floating in midair.
Does it all work?
It does – the playlist unfolds naturally, unhurriedly, and there is a good deal of emotion too. Ziwi is a compelling vocal presence throughout.
Is it recommended?
Yes – This Playlist Is Private is a new downtempo album to add to your discography.
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