Catching Z's

Zeds Dead

Catching Z's

Zeds Dead will not be offended if you fall asleep listening to this record—in fact, that was supposed to be the whole point of it. Catching Z’s is a continuation of the namesake mix series the Toronto dance-music duo debuted back in 2016, with the express purpose of sending you off into dreamland through a carefully curated selection of chill tracks by some of their favorite rap, R&B, and electronic artists. But for this edition—the first release on their new, experimentally inclined label Altered States—the duo of Dylan “DC” Mamid and Zachary “Hooks” Rapp-Rovan rummaged through their hard drives to collect castaway original material that was a bit too ambient and abstract to fit with their usual bass-bombing, stage-wobbling repertoire. “Trip-hop and downtempo music is a lot bigger of an influence in our music than most people know,” Rapp-Rovan tells Apple Music. “We come from making hip-hop, so stuff like DJ Shadow, Pete Rock's PeteStrumentals, and RJD2 was very important to us. We've always loved introspective, pensive music, and we wanted to show a side of us that we weren't sure was coming through.” Here, Rapp-Rovan provides a track-by-track guide to navigating the duo’s subconscious.
when i die i’mma come back “This one sort of felt like being in that void between life and death—there's vocal chops that have a lot of echoey, ghostly effects. It’s sort of like how [Pink Floyd’s] The Dark Side of the Moon starts out like a heartbeat; same with JAY-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's almost like your life is beginning—you know, that feeling of being in the womb. Maybe that's what happens after you die: You go back into the womb and you're reborn and you lose all your memories.”
exit row “This one started on a plane—I think that's where the title came from—but there's also the idea of an exit from life, and exit from reality. We're trying to capture a dreamy quality with these tracks. And the whole concept of music as escapism plays into that exit idea.”
lost birds (feat. Elliot Moss) “We connected with Elliot a while ago—we just really loved the songs we had heard by him and wanted to work with him. This song had been around for a while, and didn't make it onto on our last album [2016’s Northern Lights]. But it was kind of perfect for this project. We weren't going to have vocals on the record, because at first it was just going to be for sleeping. But then we were like, ‘We can have a vocal track or two in there, because they suit the vibe.’ They're not pop songs—they're more dreamy.”
phuket sunrise “DJ Shadow's 'In/Flux' was a big influence, where it's kind of like this rolling, percussive drum-break thing with elements coming in and out. This track was started in Phuket—we played a festival there, so we were out there for a while. It was definitely inspired by the scenery.”
get what you need “The vocal sample had been used in another beat that we were playing around with, and it just worked over this one. I like samples that can be interpreted differently by different people, with more ambiguous, less specific lyrics. ‘Get what you need’ can mean a lot for different people—like, for myself or Dylan, it could mean the satisfaction in your career in music-making. But more than anything, it just sounded good!”
time is an illusion “The synth sounds kinda Kraftwerky. We always like taking electronic sounds and blending them with more organic sounds—usually, it's electronic noises with drum breaks—and trying to create a sense of nostalgia. That's what we strive for all the time. In this track, there's some samples in there that blend with the main sound to get this feeling of nostalgia. It’s like how when you smell something that takes you back to childhood, or you hear something that takes you right back to a moment—or even a moment that you weren't in. There's a nostalgic feeling that I used to get all the time when I'd listen to old hip-hop beats that would make me feel like when I grew up in New York—but I didn't grow up in New York.”
i think you're cool (feat. Jenna Pemkowski) “Jenna is a friend. We've worked with her and [producer] Memorecks for a long time. We collaborated on a song called 'Collapse,' and then one after that called 'Slow Down.' So this was a continuation of that collaboration. We met up with Memorecks and he played us a bunch of stuff he was working on with Jenna, and this was one of those tracks. We took the vocal and did the whole beat and production on it, and then he came back in later and added some stuff. This one is a little more poppy than the rest of the record, but in the end we felt like it did fit in emotionally.”
desert fractal “I had just gone to Sedona and had driven through the desert from LA and I was having that driving, looking-at-the-desert kind of feeling. We worked on this track a little after that, and something about it just sounded desert-like. I think the desert is a very spiritual place, and there's something about it that fits perfectly with the Catching Z’s/Altered States idea. You can see the desert in so many different ways, but it's very peaceful to me.”
late night drive “This track had also been around for a while, but we revamped it. I'd say it's more typical to what we're known for—turning something that's emotionally swelling into a climax that carries on the same vibe. It's one of the more energetic moments on this record, but we felt like it didn't go over the top, it wasn't something that relied on drop sounds or things that would be dated. It's a little bit on that dubstep kind of vibe, but it's got a different time signature than most dubstep.”
forever alone “This one is basically like when you're an astronaut, working on the space station, and it blows up and you go flying, and then you're just floating through space for a really long time with nothing to do.”
don’t close your eyes “This was intended to be a little bit spooky, in the way that nighttime and sleep can be ever so slightly spooky sometimes—like after you watch a horror movie and then you go to bed and all of a sudden you're worrying about supernatural forces. Sometimes the right kind of creepiness works really well in a song.”
over and over “The song had that dreamy quality that we thought fit with the record. It has some brash sounds in it, but we didn't think it was so over the top that it would make someone turn the volume down if they were just chilling while listening to it. We felt like it existed in the same world.”
93 'til now “‘93 'til now’ was the file title, because there was something about the drums that just made us think of Souls of Mischief's '93 'Til Infinity,' which was a very influential track for us—but in the end, this song actually has very little relationship with it. Again, it's us mixing the organic with the electronic. We're still trying to find that nostalgic feeling. That's really what this whole project was about—trying to capture a certain intangible emotion.”

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