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Live Review: Tzekin emerges triumphant on debut album ‘Skyline Death’

20 December 2018 | 10:32 am | Michael Stratford Hutch

Sydney-based producer and co-founder of pan-Asian collective Eternal Dragonz TZEKIN (aka Justin Tam, fka V Kim) has released his debut album Skyline Death, inspired by his experience surviving a near-fatal car crash had while driving his parent’s Civic out from south Sydney.

As Tzekin himself puts it, “the songs on it are my way of exploring my own Asian-Australian identity, taking aZn pRyDe nostalgia and colliding it with club music. In parallel, it’s a soundtrack to a car crash—the split second when you crash, the memories that tear through your brain, the rush of energy right after that, and the songs that keep playing on your CD mixtape as the smoke clears.” Even after one listen (and then on many listens after that), it’s clear that Skyline Death is an affective work.

With experimental Asian R&B at its core, inspired by fragments of “Hong Kong movie melodies, aZn trance memories, [and] bullet hell OSTs,” the record showcases Tzekin’s abilities as both producer and curator/collaborator, assembling a “perfect karaoke group” of vocalists for the majority of tracks.

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The record features more established talents (such as Slodown, the Singaporean “Wong Kar Wai of soul,” and South Korean recording artist Alice Vicious) as well as less known up-and-comers (the fantastically named lilasianthiccie; Kobe, Japan-based rapper Catarrh Nisin; and Seoul-based rapper Moldy).

The tracks flit between elements of trance, half-lidded cloud rap/R&B, sound collage, and hard-hitting trap, all filtered through a warped mid-2000s pop sensibility. Particular highlights include 'Sunset Spot' and 'Skyline Death,' both sumptuous, Weeknd-esque numbers featuring Slowdown, and 'Chrome Tigerz' featuring Catarrh Nisin, a 3-minute J-rap rager that shocks with its raw power.

Overall, ‘Skyline Death’ is eclectic yet internally consistent, ambitious yet endearingly DIY, powerful and direct yet also subtle. It takes a producer of real calibre to tie so many diverse sonic and conceptual threads together, and that’s exactly what you can hear when listening through (and then listening through again, and again…).

Records like Skyline Death are a real privilege to listen to, a window into a very different world to what most Australians are accustomed, a world of which many remain ignorant. I personally can’t wait to see, and hear, what comes next.

Photo by Boudist