There’s a saying in the music industry – ‘let the music speak for itself’. While some artists resort to theatrics and social engineering, the humblest hone their craft. Once in a blue moon, in lieu of grand double-albums, release parties, label launches, merchandising and the like will come a simple statement in the form of a track with such raw power and ability to change the game with very little fuss. You’d think then after over half a decade of delivering such phenomenon’s – one industry-altering single right after the other – we’d already have something of an album from repeat offender Martin Bresso. It’s something that in the year 2020 and with the release of ‘Year Zero’ the Frenchman, better known as Tchami, has made his mission to remedy.
And with no filler, all killer. It’s a body of work shy of its preceding roots in the dark themes first introduced to us way back in Tchami’s game-changing debut double-A ‘Shot Caller/Promesses’ and fan favourites like 2014’s ‘Untrue’ in lieu of a universally more optimistic tone. In a noticeably progressive step forward for Bresso, Year Zero is much less about the adrenaline-fuelled dance anthems littered amongst his past discography as it is about showcasing a newfound maturity and set of emotions not fully explored until now, particularly evident throughout the LP with the sickly-sweet melancholy of tracks such as ‘Shine On’ and ‘Sweet Savage’.
But what would a Tchami debut album be without some absolute heavy hitters as of course, this is still the same future-house-pioneering producer that shocked us with 2015’s absolutely anthemic ‘Afterlife’ after all. It’s something we are reminded of on numerous occasions, as the Parisian tastemakers roots as a cultural influence over the direction dance floor music has taken is evident in his signature heat found in the likes of unmistakable trademark production in ‘Monseigneur’.
You’d be remiss then to think that Year Zero is nothing more than a greatest-hits collection. There is plenty new here on show to make even the most level dance aficionados spoilt giddy with choice not unlike that of a child in a candy store, eyes immediately drawn to track 7 of the album listing featuring recent back-to-back DJ set partner ZHU. ‘All On Me’ is a clear standout in the way it’s collision of two unlikely worlds exudes an air of pure, unadulterated experimentation, mutual respect and perhaps most of all, fun. What’s most notable here is just how effortlessly trademarks of both Tchami and Zhu production wheelhouses mesh together – sometimes alternately (as in the very ZHU-esque intro and bridge or Tchami-like verses and builds) to flat out simultaneously, showcased in the call-and-response basses traded from beat to beat, bar to bar in the climax of the chorus itself. No stranger to collaboration, it’s the perfect cherry on top of a curation of tracks showing Bresso’s penchant to both fly solo but collaborate when needed.
It’s this that stands as the major strength of Year Zero. It’s a commendable effort to encapsulate what Bresso’s project is really about. Navigating everywhere from his early affinity for pure club music to the more subdued and spiritually introspective direction introduced to us with 2017’s unexpected but welcome surprise ‘Adieu’ of which the LP touches back om with a natural progression with tracks ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Faith’. From collaborative co-stars to familiar groovy basslines and swung rhythms now synonymous with not only the genre but the name Tchami itself, what is most interesting to note here is the strength of the album as a curation of not only individual tracks, not only individual sounds but individual concepts that culminate to be greater than the sum of their parts. Each and every production – of which Year Zero is 16-strong – are built upon an immediately recognizable fondness of not only either pop or dance formats but a confident mastery of both. If this is truly ‘Year Zero’ then it’s crazy to think what’s in store next for the undisputed French prince of house music.