Zedd – Clarity

Clarity is the debut album from Anton Zaslavski, better known as Zedd. Getting signed to Universal’s Interscope label in a scene overflowing with talent, Zedd’s already achieved something extraordinary. But that’s not the only success Zaslavski has to his name: on the day of its release, Clarity skyrocketed to #1 on the iTunes dance charts, leapfrogging Deadmau5’s >album titles go here<. Quite a feat for the 23-year-old German who only began producing three years ago and described the album launch as the “biggest day of his life”.

Zedd’s quick rise to the top of the dance music scene can be credited to a series of releases that broke the boundaries of electro, incorporating progressive and complextro. He’s remixed everyone from Skrillex to Lady Gaga and they’ve endorsed him ever since; most recently landing opening act duties for Lady Gaga’s North American and Asian legs of her world tour. So with a monumental rise, I was quite eager to see what he could craft through this 10-track album.

Clarity kicks off with Hourglass, a great intro track that gradually builds up from some static, a ticking clock and a snare drum that are eventually accompanied by the wonderful vocals of LIZ. Up to this point you aren’t too sure where the opener is leading the album, before the track pauses for a moment and the kick drum and melody come in. We are then lead into Shave It Up which is a shortened version of the single Shave It and it is the first taste of the Zedd sound which initially got me hooked, with pulsing electro accompanied by orchestral breakdowns.

Spectrum follows, a track that has received the remix treatment from countless DJs and has been played in the biggest festivals and clubs in the world. The aptly named track combines several styles from the music spectrum: house, break-beat, complextro accompanied by the vocals of Matthew Koma, who is yet to take a wrong step with his releases. The vocals continue with Lost at Sea, which has Interscope compatriot Ryan Tedder on vocals, with the track resting on typical big synths it’s not one the highlights of the album.

Dreamy title track Clarity follows, with Foxes’ vocals accompanied by sweeping pads, a choir and an infectious melody it’s a definite standout. We are then taken into a series of instrumentals, kicking off with Codec. There’s traces of mentors Skrillex and Deadmau5 in there, but the chopped vocals and foot-stomping beats achieving nothing more than sounding like a below par impersonation. Stache follows with a great build up, but unfortunately the track leaves you longing, with a bland acid bassline before another buildup that leads into a typical kick drop.

Lucky Date and Zedd team up with another Interscope vocalist and girlfriend of Skrillex, Ellie Goulding for Fall Into The Sky. It’s a great progressive track which just keep taking you higher and higher, with Goulding’s vocals carrying you during the breaks it’s definitely on par with Spectrum as best track on the album. Bright Lights and Zedd team up for the penultimate track Follow You Down; the vocals and melody here could just as easily see this track closing a set for thousands of screaming fans or being played in a relaxed environment.

Epos brings the album to an end, but the track lacks a direction. With the first half of the track building up beautifully, Zedd then opens up the filters and for some reason goes into an electro kick, before slowing down the pace. Like many on the album, it feels as though this track has been overworked – sometimes, less is more.

Clarity is not the defining dance music album some have proclaimed it. Rather, it’s an album that shows an artist trying to be eclectic – something Zedd manages on a few of the tracks but unfortunately, does not achieve as a whole. While it’s definitely worth a listen, what Clarity best demonstrates is the crossroads commercial and dance music are currently at.

Clarity is out now through Interscope.