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Rizzla - Adepta Music Album Reviews

Every second of Brooklyn-based DJ and producer Brian Friedberg’s debut album is a cacophony, with sounds that range from Bible-verse vocal samples to foghorns to the tinkling of shattered glass.

What do you do when your life’s work is putting you in harm’s way? Brian Friedberg, a Brooklyn-based artist who DJs and produces dance music as Rizzla, faced this quandary while working on their first full-length, Adepta. In a recent interview, they recounted how a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment prevented them from engaging in the club culture that is dance music’s lifeblood, explaining that this sudden disconnect from the social and experiential elements of the art form freed them up to work in the studio. “Reorienting my relationship to the making of music from a direct product of DJ sets in the club to a more speculative experiment in world building has been simultaneously painful and liberating,” Friedberg reflected.

That combination of agony and ecstasy comes through in the sonic chaos of Adepta. Despite Friedberg’s stated intention of taking their sound beyond the confines of the dancefloor, the record’s iridescent intensity bears a closer resemblance to their mixes and DJ sets than to their previous studio works. Their last proper release as Rizzla, 2015’s Iron Cages EP, balanced trippy, relentless beatcraft with pockets of negative space. But there’s little breathing room to be found on Adepta, which comes via producer Kingdom’s Night Slugs-adjacent Fade to Mind and bears the brash, polyphonous touchstones of that label’s brand of dance music. Every second is a cacophony, incorporating sounds that range from Bible-verse vocal samples to foghorns to the tinkling of shattered glass.

It’s not exactly noise music, but Adepta can be a harsh listen. Yet Friedberg’s kitchen-sink approach to assembling these 12 tracks (which are accompanied by two fine vocals-driven remixes) is energizing even as it threatens to exhaust. British bass maven Untold’s Black Light Spiral, from 2014, is a recent analog—but while that record emphasized its endless-tunnel atmosphere above all else, Adepta’s most surprising moments highlight Friedberg’s melodic sensibility. The title track centers around a sling-blade vocal sample that slices through the splashy drums and bed of low-tone bass that surrounds it. “Test Man” fuses a bruising industrial techno motif with tangy trance synths. And the punishing drums of “Dewdrop” fall away to reveal a lovely thumb-piano-sounding melody submerged under layers of processing.

While compositions like these craft an environment that feels separate from the dancefloor functionality of proper club music, Adepta’s two bonus tracks marry that world-building studio nerdery with more crowd-pleasing immediacy. The effervescent “Fall of Cadia” will sound familiar to listeners who’ve followed the Night Slugs or Fade to Mind catalogs over the past decade. “Chainsaw,” meanwhile, is pure maximalism—a pair of intertwined, cascading melodic lines smothered by an alluringly grotesque vocal sample and a gradually intensifying footwork beat. Dizzying, disruptive, and danceable all at once, it’s a concise and spellbinding encapsulation of the frenzied perspective that guides Friedberg’s debut album.

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