After the release of his debut EP ‘Collapse’ in 2017, and his first album, ‘Movies at the end of Youth’ the same year, Toronto producer Tom Probizanski, known on stage as Zanski, is making his mark on 2018 by unleashing a new wave of electronic funk. Probizanski’s latest EP, ‘Derivative Emotion’ assembles previously released singles with a few tracks unheard until now. The result is a tantalising, moody showcase of smooth RnB realised by the minds eye of an electronic producer.
No time is lost in kicking off the five-track EP; the opener, ‘Reaction to Sudden Noise’, leads with stabbing strings and effects laden guitar that will immediately evoke a reaction from your funk-bone. Subtle wordplay and suggestive innuendos put forth in an airy falsetto synergise with a sexy bass-line to create an air of delicate machismo. Hard hitting “wah wah’s” add the perfect amount of “neo” to the “funk” that is the sly guitar motif which propels the song to its Prince-esque outro.
With these infectious elements, ‘Reaction to Sudden Noise’ is arguably the brightest shining of the EP’s five songs, which is not to suggest that the other four are dull; on the contrary, the next track, ‘Got Me All Alone’, is a sensuous display of ear pleasing, layered vocals and falsetto croons that further attest to Probizanski mastery as a producer and singer. Following with ‘Fool’, Zanski takes the influence of D’angelo and J Dilla and constructs an electrically laced pseudo-love song (it’s complicated) that delivers heaping doses of soul at a thoughtful pace set by massive hits of drum and bass.
If Miguel’s balmy voice were to make an appearance this EP, it would have certainly been on the next song, ‘Oceans’, but Probizanski’s inflection makes a feature of itself. As the song progresses, vocals make an stark transition from a tight, subverted soundstage to one that is open and clean. The interplay of guitars further expands the stereo effect until a groovy keyboard arpeggio wraps things up so that the final number, ‘Up the Walls’, can bring closure to to the EP in an epic way; the melodramatic, slow pace of this cut separates itself from the relatively upbeat tone projected by the other songs. Production too is noticeably disparate, as layered, prismizer treated vocal runs — a slight nod to Bon Iver’s ‘22 a Million’ and Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ — construct a complex wall of sound while blaring synths and reverberating snare hits keep the composition on a steady march to its end.
In all, ‘Derivative Emotion’ indulges listeners in the sounds that mark this electronic era of music all while embodying the emotive spirit of classical RnB. This is best exemplified in ‘Fool’, where, over a mix of wobbly guitars and churning bass, Probizanski confesses, “I don’t know the first thing about how to say something cool, god I feel so good, looking like a fool”. Indeed, why talk if you can dance it out and shamelessly make a fool of yourself?
Barry White surely couldn’t answer this question, and neither could I, so I’ll promptly take my leave… see you on the dance floor