Awesome Feeling 8: Mzwètwo ‘Michael Jackson’

Mzwetwo

Brought to you by The Corner and NZ On Air, Awesome Feeling 8 is an online event running through NZ Music Month 2014, culminating in the release of a free downloadable compilation of 12 New Zealand songs and the words written about them. Every couple of days, we’ll be posting streaming+downloadable tracks from emerging local artists, accompanied by artist and track profiles authored by Corner contributors.

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Emerging fully formed in 2011 with a self-determined dedication to aural and visual aesthetic that was, at the time, thoroughly unusual for artists in his lane, the then-teenaged then-monikered Loui the ZU’s early arc could credibly be called proto-Lordeian. Of a similar age at his public debut, with similar dedication to controlling the dissemination of his own agenda and image, similarly influenced by artists making art music inside the framework of pop music and similarly dedicated to doing the same, had Loui had the fortune or the inclination to stumble onto a hook as universal as the now sanctified Ms Yelich-O’Connor he’d likely be sharing her pedestal at the moment.

As it was, though, he chose to disappear instead. Following some well-received EP releases, a beat tape, a song featured in a local tertiary educator’s major advertising campaign and a New Zealand Music Awards nomination, at some point he threw it in. Lightly scrubbing the internet of his existence – the Loui the ZU Soundcloud lies dormant and emaciated but still accessible, while his former website and Tumblr pages have been sadly excised – he instead chose to work in private on a newly named project; creating a new legacy rather than working on shaping or augmenting that which he’d already created.

I’ve been told by a reliable source that one of the main purposes of his reincarnation as Mzwètwo was to create work unencumbered by influence, work that doesn’t sound like and isn’t indebted to anything that’s preceded it. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t quite reached those heights. What he’s created, though, is by significant measure colder, darker and more exciting than his work as Loui the ZU.

On ‘Michael Jackson’ he layers and intercuts drill-flavoured beats, Migos-cadenced raps and a pitch-shifted hook lifted straight from the inside jacket pocket of one Scott Mescudi, combining a set of reasonably disparate ingredients into something that immediately feels familiar but never worn-in. Vocals roll unsettlingly through different keys and central phrases – lyrical and musical – are less repeated than triggered, Mzwètwo treating his voice like he does the samples that surround it, as much as a digitally-assisted pan-harmonic device as a rhythmic battering ram. It’s a piece of work that stands best in a body, taken from a three-song digital EP best consumed in one brief sitting, but even on its own it’s more than a little arresting.

Mzwètwo’s career to date suggests the priority of invention over economy, asserting artistic fulfillment over commercial success as the ultimate ambition for the creator. If he can continue to work at this level, he might well attain both. He’s not yet world-beating, but at this point it can’t be far away.

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Download previous Awesome Feeling compilations:

Download: Awesome Feeling 5
Download: Awesome Feeling 6
Download: Awesome Feeling 7

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