It would be difficult to discuss Jeremy Rose aka Zodiac’s new EP without referencing his work with Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd (or The Weekend as Rose originally dubbed it) so we’ll get it out of the way now. Back in March, a VICE article/interview introduced Rose as the man behind House Of Balloons standouts “What You Need” and “Loft Music”, as well as a slower version of “The Morning”. Rose explains that he helped devise the “dark R&B” sound that The Weeknd is now heavily associated with and that “The Weekend” was initially comprised of himself and Tesfaye. Eventually, the two split ways, partially over artistic differences (Tesfaye wanted to make club tracks), but also because Rose realized that Tesfaye had no intention of paying him, which he has yet to do for his work on House Of Balloons. Maybe more importantly, Rose wasn’t given any production credits on the album. Abel’s camp has yet to comment of the affair, but it sure seems like some fuckery to me. Anyways, all beef aside, Rose’s early work with Abel functions as an excellent forebear to his debut EP as Zodiac.
Zodiac‘s first track, “Girlgirlgirl”, is essentially an announcement that Rose can stand on his own two feet as an artist. Prior to this EP, all we’d heard from Zodiac was the three tracks with Abel and a few scattered, unfinished joints on his Soundcloud. An impressive and tantalizing group of tracks, but not much that pointed to Rose’s ability to perform sans vocalist. “Girlgirlgirl” is tight and deliberate, utilizing cold synth pads to establish a cinematic atmosphere. Vocals are carefully manipulated and the low end sounds boom without relinquishing any of the beauty in the circumspective vocal arrangements. “Girlgirlgirl” is technically proficient, evocative if not a little bit tepid.
The Jessie Boykins III assisted “Come” is the EP’s only vocalist assisted track and also its pinnacle. Stretching the limits of what most consider R&B to entail, Boykins and Rose bring to mind James Blake and Mount Kimbie more than it does Jeremih or Miguel. More than anything, the song is indicative of the aesthetic direction R&B has taken in the face of the David Guetta-ization of radio pop.
So why don’t you ever come to my house. So why don’t you come over, we can hang out you know/Get high, we can get you know/Or something… Maybe not.”
At times, the EP sounds a little too broad, opting to mix too many styles in too precise of a manner. “Come” is the most focused bit of work and the remaining three tracks, “So Soon We Change”, “Loss Config.” and “138″ involve a menagerie of in vogue hip hop and dance tropes. Drawing from LA and Atlanta equally, Rose invokes Trap as much as the more ambient strains of Beat music. While the EP is painted in broad strokes, it still impresses in the technical department, a result of Rose’s perfectionist tendencies.
If nothing else, Zodiac is an introduction to the many faces of Jeremy Rose beyond the cloak of The Weeknd, proving his dexterity across multiple styles and genres. If you haven’t heard, Rose recently signed a contract to work with Paul Epworth (yeah that Paul Epworth) at Epworth’s Wolf Tone imprint, a move that should open up many new and exciting opportunities. For now, the EP is an impressive primer to Zodiac, the solo artist, a name we will be hearing a lot in the coming years.