J-E-T-S - Zoospa

  • Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar revive their partnership with a futuristic R&B and pop sheen.
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  • J-E-T-S is a testament to friendship and collaboration. On the few records they've put out, Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum, AKA Travis Stewart, have collapsed their egos into a clean and cohesive unit. But as the world took Edgar and Stewart to different places, J-E-T-S fell to the wayside in 2015. Two years later, the duo found themselves living in the same part of the world again—in this case, the West Coast—so Stewart went up to Edgar's Portland studio to see what they could make together, without any particular goal in mind. The result is Zoospa, an album that hopscotches between rap, R&B and festival fare while locked into a rare kind of synchronicity. Stewart and Edgar worked on most of Zoospa in person together. Using Edgar's "super complex" modular setup, they warped drums and recordings into futuristic, alien sounds. Inspired by chord progressions in '60s minimalism, they also explored an unusual harmonic structure called quartal harmony, built on perfect fourths, making jazz chord progressions sound more ambiguous. Through these methods, they work innovation into familiar ideas without overwhelming them. "Q Natural," for example, sounds like a standard big-room trap banger until you listen to how bizarre and discrete each individual sound feels—it could be a demo track for a snazzy stereo system. Zoospa is full of rich, luminous sounds. The chords on "Fire Fly" are bright and pristine while the cooing voices shimmer brilliantly. On "Ocean Ppl," Rochelle Jordan's vocals and the instruments shine as though dipped in gold dust. And on "Potions," a standout collaboration with Dawn Richard, jerky chords span the stereo spectrum. It's a smart balance of pop and experimentalism. The album is split almost evenly between instrumentals and vocal tracks, which land at different points along the pop and R&B spectrum. J-E-T-S sound fierce beneath powerful rappers like Mykki Blanco and Tkay Maidza—the Mykki song "Play" is another standout and counts among his best in years. The duo don't match so well with Kingjet, whose "Look Out" sounds like a hi-def update on shouty SoundCloud rap and R&B. The vocal tracks can make the instrumentals seem less developed in comparison. The album's last two tracks, "Team Effort" and "Water And Stone" are alright, but they feel anti-climactic after the one-two punch of "Ocean PPL" and "Q Natural." They seem tacked on, and on a 37-minute album every moment matters. Still, that brevity mostly works in ZOOSPA's favour. It's not a splashy supergroup album, nor is it perfect. It's the work of two experienced producers producing sharp songs. Like all of Edgar and Stewart's work as J-E-T-S, Zoospa is impressive but surprisingly low-key, like a jam session between two old friends who also happen to be among the most talented in their scenes.
  • Tracklist
      01. Fauna Sauna 02. Potions feat. DAWN 03. Fire Fly 04. Look Out feat. King Jet 05. Lotus Hd 06. Play feat. Mykki Blanco 07. Real Truth feat. Tkay Maidza 08. Ocean Ppl feat. Rochelle Jordan 09. Hyper Hibernate 10. Q Natural 11. Team Effort 12. Water And Stone