Rudi Zygadlo, Tragicomedies
Romantic balladry and intimate bedroom pop
For his second album on Planet Mu, Scottish songwriter Rudi Zygadlo has created a 21st-century fusion of romantic balladry and intimate bedroom pop, using juddering bass alongside florid instrumentation to vivid and unusual effect. He might have been tagged as a dubstep producer when he emerged in 2010, but he’s clearly come a long way since then.
On opener “Kopenikuss,” piano chords rise steadily before they’re tipped off balance by a gentle surge of pitch-bend. Here, and throughout, he recalls James Blake: the two songwriters share a love for the contrast between electronic and organic sounds, and a willingness to make their voices feminine and mechanical.
On “Russian Dolls” a strong melody unites slippery robotic vocals, while “The Deaf School” features a pile-up of trumpets, ’80s boogie bass and stuttering drums, held in orbit by Zygaldo’s magnetic songwriting. At times, his lugubrious sense of drama recalls Rufus Wainwright (particularly on lines like “You saved my life, how mortifying”), but the music also borrows from the ADD anarchy of Rustie and the pellucid calm of Boards of Canada – and against the odds, these elements cohere.
Like fellow electronic adventurer Julia Holter, Zygadlo is fascinated by classical mythology. On “Persephone”, he muses on the timeless complexities of love: “Here we go again/ The horror and the delight/ A plot with no ending/ Only many beginnings.” It is this blend of ancient and modern that gives the album its rich, strange flavor, Zygadlo keeping one foot in the past as he fixes his gaze forward.