Hectic Zeniths: "Then and Now"


By George Bass | 9 January 2012

Math teacher Adam Prince knows that both sides of every equation have to balance perfectly—if they don’t, you get a mean red cross. He’s stretched this idea to breaking point on his debut as Hectic Zeniths: every hip-hop rhythm and sampled stylus is matched by piano, live drumming, violins, guitars, and vocals. You’d need a geometrist’s brain to cling to a formula that complex and Prince has, as well as a handful of successfully received remix EPs. Even so, it took him three years to layer together this album. That’s a lot of missed lessons and last minute learning plans handed to the substitute teacher.

The standout, “Then and Now,” sells you everything you need to visualize Prince’s world: swirling pianos, horns, strings, nostalgia, and beats that place it somewhere between the RZA and Burial moving furniture. It’s a sluggish but unique sound, working up some big beat cinematics that are sure to get hip-hop biographers circling: stuff this good can turn TV obituaries into contenders for most original sound design. Prince’s soft vocals might spoil the illusion for some, but there’s still enough muscle to give him an armed, fragile quality. It goes to show you what can be achieved by studying trigonometry and staying in your bedroom—not just proficiency on scientific calculators and a wardrobe even a pro-golfer would wince at.