However you try to analyse his music, it’s clear that Zach Slump is on some grimy shit. On the cover of his latest project Poor Quality Aesthetics, he amidst a cloud of smoke with a lackadaisical haze on his face. Sonic expectations for a rapper using this imagery are met on the song ‘Out The Window’. There’s obvious influences at hand here, but over the jovial pianos Zach sounds like an accomplished artist in his own right. ‘I’m a piece of shit, I said this shit a million times’, he groans in the song’s earworm refrain. The song is a bite-sized piece of the self loathing, obsessively analytical lyrical approach that Zach aims to convey with this project.
Elsewhere however, the production is moulded to fit this style more specifically. ‘Backdrop’ uses the classic ‘soul loop as a melodic device’ technique as Zach muses about his life. This one features an even greater focus on the rapper’s skill as a songwriter: the centrepiece of the song is a series of shouted, accusatory phrases that amount to a rally for the downtrodden underdogs of the rap game. ‘I was hella dusty now the city fit the backdrop’ he croaks towards the end of the song, his rise from the struggle now fully in motion. ‘Bagdat’ is more of the same, although it neglects the choppy soul vocals for a bleaker approach that allows the rapper to flex his flows during recounts of depressing, drug-fueled nights.
It’s important to note though that while a lot of these songs are all doom and gloom, a few deviate from the IDLS approach to songwriting and are able to convey the DIY aspects of PQA without sinking into lo-fi soul-gazing. ‘Laundry Day’ is a genuine banger with fantastic percussive work, wriggling keys and a killer guest verse from Sioux. The structure of this tape really reminds me of Mac Miller’s more diverse work like Faces, which achieved a similarly impressive balance of heart-on-sleeve emotion and loner party anthems. Single ‘5th Scale’ achieves the same results as Zach churns out lines like ‘My parents probably know me a deadbeat, we only smoking on the fucking best weed’ over producer Nickless’ glitzy production. ‘Dust Bunnies’ follows, immediately absorbing the exuberant atmosphere into an amalgam of rattling drums and weirdo observations: ‘Cut coke with a bitch got her wrist cut’.
The last three songs on the project represent each of these straying styles: ‘Craxkhead’ is a surprisingly upbeat number sporting video game soundtrack production, while ‘you never stfu’ is a hulking boom bap monster that brings the rapper’s uber-slick bars to the forefront. Finally, ‘Fuck My Life Up’ explores the warped aspects of a failing relationship, summarising the poisonous mindset that has inspired the creation of this tape, and in turn the way it affects the people around him. It’s an interesting choice for the closing song, but the gorgeous production gives it a bittersweet feel and makes it incredibly appropriate for such placement in the tracklist.
This isn’t where Zach’s efforts with the album end, however. Aptly for the tape’s most impressive melodic exports, ‘Laundry Day’ has a bright, silly visual that sees Zach and Sioux counting money up in a laundromat, eating Snickers, and generally acting a fool. It’s marvellously shot and very well edited, giving the song an even more professional sheen that proves that ‘Poor Quality Aesthetics’ can still be a load of fun. Zach has put out plenty of visuals for this project, including lovesick anthem ‘Seizing’, a emotional maelstrom that’s a far cry from the clowning of the aforementioned video. By putting together these impressive visual aids, Zach is adding to the completeness of his second project and ensuring that his music remains as entertaining as it is diverse.
Listen to the whole of Zach’s album here.