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CD review

Zakee’s ‘Assimilations’

By Siddhartha Mitter
September 13, 2011

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The African roots of Philadelphia producer-singer Zakee are ambiguous - hipster blogs say Senegal; Zakee has spoken of relatives in Ghana. But that’s appropriate: This omnivorous soundsmith draws from the entirety of what scholars call the Black Atlantic, from Angolan kuduro to Baltimore club to the moody rock of TV on the Radio. There’s new wave orchestration, too, and deep house, and don’t forget Brazil, where Zakee has been shooting videos in the Rio favelas. Brazil’s great poet Vinicius de Moraes is the first voice on the opening track, “Dark Crystal,’’ in a spectral reading that yields to a keening part by Esau Mwamwaya of The Very Best. Zakee handles vocals thereafter; he’s a decent singer, and what his writing lacks in depth he makes up for in production. Lately Zakee has been performing with a live band, but “Assimilations’’ is a state-of-the-art producer’s album: Each song is a layered, intricate delight, and every bass rumble, glitch, and skitter is deftly and deliberately applied. It adds up to a smart debut, though a bit tame compared to some of Zakee’s remix work, which is easily found online. (Out today)

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