It’s probably safe to say that AWE (aka Zack Urman) has had a decent couple of years. Two years ago, Zack Urman was 18 years old, living in Los Angeles, producing dubstep under the moniker Zaku-Chan. He exploded onto the scene in May of 2013 with his massive EP, “Eagle Soul”, on Terrorhythm Records, but under a new moniker: AWE. Since then, his music has easily lived up to, and exceeded, the standard set by his name. Now, at 20 years old, Zack Urman is producing some of the most dynamic, game-changing, epically mood-shifting tunes in electronic music.
As usual, we think it’s silly to try to pigeonhole a producer’s tunes into a specific genre, and that statement is as true as ever when it comes to AWE. His music employs uplifting synth melodies and drums that bang as hard as those you might hear in a 2010 dubstep tune (except accompanied with better sound design), while drawing on influences that clearly range from Timbaland beats to Joker to Mr. Carmack to Rustie and HudMo to whatever’s cool in house music nowadays. His affiliations further express the range of sounds and influences his music displays: he runs with both the LA beat music collective Team Supreme and Plastician‘s grime/purple/dubstep label Terrorhythm Recordings.
Up until his most recent release, I was fairly certain that I would be claiming his January 2014 single “Crystals” to be the track of the year at the end of December. Now, I’m not so sure. AWE’s most recent offering, once again through Terrorhythm Recordings, is a short, two track EP, featuring the title track “Griffin”, along with the Mesozoic banger, “Triassic”. “Griffin” provides what BnC collaborator Ben Carvalho calls the “best morphing motif since EPROM‘s ‘Regis Chillbin’.” Bringing a smorgasbord of new and old sounds to the table, it begins with a synth melody very characteristic of an AWE tune, but quickly deteriorates into an acid 303 bassline that would put many of today’s techno stars to shame. (Wait, are there still techno stars?) The tune relies heavily on 808 kicks and uses snares very sparingly, but in a way that doesn’t leave the listener missing them (an impressive feat, especially in electronic music). Departing from the traditional structure of most contemporary tracks from his peers, AWE never repeats his arrangements in “Griffin”, and constantly surprises the listener by taking the same basic musical idea and continually reconstructing it throughout the whole tune. No two 16-bar sections are the same. Honestly, I don’t even think that it’s really fair to consider this a “tune”. This is a fucking “piece” of music. As the piece transforms over the course of the title track’s 5 minutes and 17 seconds, the listener is slowly prepared for what ends up being (believe it or not) the standout tune: “Triassic”.
“Triassic” is actually a reimagining of a similarly reptilian tune from AWE‘s freshman release, “Eagle Soul”, entitled… “Jurassic”. I personally love being able to witness a producer’s musical growth by seeing what they do with one of their earlier iconic tunes like “Jurassic” several years down the road in their career. Despite the fact that it was only written 18 months later, “Triassic” is an entirely different beast than “Jurassic”. Retaining the original melodic intro of “Jurassic”, “Triassic” is a much classier, much more elegant tune than “Jurassic”. Where “Jurassic” thrashes, “Triassic” glides smoothly. Where “Jurassic” gives you everything you asked for and much more, “Triassic” is subtle and gives you only what you need, but in the best way possible. We can only hope that AWE revisits this melody again further along in his career and gives us more insight into how his brain has changed the way it approaches writing music. (Or maybe I just really, really love this melody and can’t get enough it).
Stream the tunes below:
You can cop the release here, or you can buy it on iTunes or Beatport if you don’t like supporting artists/labels directly for whatever reason.