Zomby has a cult following, and it's not just because of his notorious internet persona. At surface level, the appeal is obvious: his beats pair crystal-clear melodies with hard-hitting percussion, and his best tunes don't have more than three or four parts to them. But there's something bewitching about the way he puts sounds together, and that's what captures the hearts of so many. 2011's Dedication saw him at his most funereal, and With Love trudges its hearse down the same route. Two discs of frigid and lonely computer music, the sprawling record presents Zomby at his best but also his most fragmented.
Though With Love is Zomby's most substantial statement, its building blocks are as brittle as ever. Songs rarely make it beyond the three-minute mark, and many fade out suddenly, as if he got bored while making them. More than ever before he's established a core sound palette—high-pitched trills, tinny drums, ominous strings—expanding on the bleakness of Dedication but slimming down his toolbox in the process. Everything has a neo-gothic sheen, like it's set against a stark black background. Minimalist and sleek, at times it's so uniform that it's hard to tell songs apart.
Disc one suffers less from this problem, connecting the skeletal pallor of Zomby's new music back to the irreverent rave spirit of Where Were U In 92. He jumps from gorgeous chiptune ("As Darkness Falls") to straight-up jungle ("Overdose"), and of course, his signature brand of neon-lit eski grime, lightweight but hard like titanium ("Pray For Me"). It's a jumpy listen, but it's all clothed in the same grey melancholy. Even the few tracks with vocal samples ("The Things You Do," "If I Will,") feel soaked in formaldehyde, their voices dead and distant. Most intriguing of all is when he delves into baroque trap, stringing stuttering drums over curtains of regal melody.
Trap (or something like it) ends up as the dominant sound of the more homogenous second disc. The same grandly echoing drums skid through almost every track, buffeting melodies that sound eerily familiar. The disc climaxes with "Soliloquy," which is easily With Love's standout moment. Its central melody is slightly more fleshed-out, its drum programming a tad more dynamic.
For an artist so intent on self-mythologizing—with his grand pronouncements, rare interviews and mask-wearing anonymity—With Love feels like a surprisingly comprehensive piece of work. But it's still a rambling outpouring of quick-fire songs. It could be Zomby's magnum opus, or just him getting lost in his own excess. Either way, he's still doing exactly what he wants to, and in a world of copycats and trend-hoppers, that defiant attitude is a virtue in itself.