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Freshly Baked: Japanese-Singaporean producer MZA unveils debut EP ‘Balmoral’

His first single, ‘Morning Salutations’, features the late Japanese jazz legend, Toshinori Kondo

  • Kevin Ho
  • 29 May 2021

Like the aroma of a childhood snack or a snapshot from yesteryear, music can be a catalyst to evoke one’s deep-seated memories. Latching onto this sentimental property is MZA, a Japanese-Singaporean producer who’s been cooking up his debut EP, ‘Balmoral’, while the city remains in nightlife-starved limbo. Set to drop on 4 June 2021, the EP is purported to be a vessel of electronic anecdotes that highlights pivotal anchors and influences in his life. It’s an intimate segue into a curated passage of nostalgia, and MZA is giving all listeners a front-row seat.

The first glimpse of this audial tour can be found in the EP’s featured single, ‘Morning Salutations ft. Toshinori Kondo’ that’s out now. Saluting his roots and fondness for jazz, MZA sets the tone vividly by roping in the late Japanese trumpeter via previously unreleased stems, disseminated online by the latter’s sons, Sora and Yota Kondo. MZA does justice to the revered figure – also a former collaborator of DJ Krush whom MZA adores – by assimilating these trumpet samples into a mellow trip-hop voyage, lumbering languidly amidst an organic array of spiritual chimes, traditional folk instruments and raw drum patterns. It’s an introspective slow-jam inspired by Buddhist ideas, and a self-professed flashback to MZA’s memories of summer holidays spent in Japan with his grandparents.

As for the remaining four tracks on ‘Balmoral’ – which is aptly named after the neighbourhood bakery that MZA frequented growing up – it promises to exhibit a spectrum of genres that reflect the producer’s diverse tastes, bearing formats of drum ‘n’ bass, deep house and beyond. “The concept of this release is built on the cyclical nature of life, with elements and motifs being repeated or played in variations throughout the five tracks,” MZA reveals on the EP’s Bandcamp page on Yen Disco Soundsystem, an electronic/hip-hop label that he also happens to co-run.

Juggling numerous hats, MZA has been making strides in the music scene with his various pursuits. Aside from Yen Disco Soundsystem, he diligently helms ZŪJAGO, a blog that targets jazz, hip-hop and electronic music by Japanese and mixed-Japanese musicians. And as a selector, he’s been a purveyor of eclectic taste with past gigs at venues like Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee, Potato Head Singapore and Kilo Lounge. He’s even had a track featured on ‘Uploading Vol. 1’, a compilation of electronic originals assembled by fellow producer Intriguant, who also mentored MZA earlier in 2021.

Whether you consider him a beatmaker or educator, it’s clear that MZA is someone who loves sharing knowledge and stories. The release of ‘Balmoral’ is yet another extension of that selfless tendency, and from what it sounds like, he’s going more personal than ever before.

Listen to the first single of ‘Balmoral’ by MZA on the EP’s Bandcamp page.

Follow Kevin Ho for all things Singapore and beyond via Life In Arpeggio here.

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