Album Review: Zhao - Ride EP | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Album Review: Zhao – Ride EP

Kylie McCormick explores up-and-coming electronic artist, Zhao's, mystical recent EP

Artist Zhao is an ambient electronic pop artist who mixes unconventional tones with mystical lyrics, producing a unique divergent sound that is sure to wow. Zhao is himself a mixture of cultures and places; born to Chinese immigrants in Tennessee, he grew up in Atlanta and now calls Los Angeles home. The myriad of influences from his home bases as well as cultural influences no doubt prompted Zhao to explore a life of experimentation, trying to find a single identity and base. The exploration is noted in his sound, Zhao seems to mix multiple genres and tones to create explorative mysterious tunes. 

The exploration of his various cultural influences is noted in his sound; Zhao seems to mix multiple genres and tones to create explorative mysterious tunes

Newest EP Ride offers an extension of Zhao’s other work, a complicated amalgamation of ambient indie vibes and electronic pop that offers a truly unique sound and take on music. Ride opens with 80s-tinged ‘The Fighter’. The song balances a strong percussion backbone with ethereal overlays, an interesting balance found in many electronic pop songs. Along with this, the song has sonic space, Zhao leaving moments of instrumentals that mix in with the lyrical content, giving the song this mysterious and explorative emotion to it. It becomes a beautiful investigation into life and love, into finding oneself and a voice, a concept that seems to permeate the EP. 

‘Ride’ continues the EP, pulling the same 80s tonality, Zhao quickens the pace and gives the song an extra kick of modern pop. Like current hits by Zayn Malik or Walk the Moon, Zhao combines this alien beat with falsetto vocals that give the song a truly other-worldly undertone. It seems to also include pitches that could be a nod to ancient Chinese music, but cloaked in modern interpretations. The song could function as a dance-ready modern electronic pop with ambient alien overtones.

‘Passing of Time’ slows the EP down, a breath of fresh air permeating the previous beats. Zhao again uses a strong EDM style beat to give backbone to the song, giving the tune a house feel at its start. After the first verse, the song opens ever so slightly, the addition of new instrumentals adding texture to the song. Sonically, the tune continues to grow, never elevating to a bombastic explosion, but ‘Passing of Time’ continues to yield that steady beat. It is the perfect midnight drive song, something not really heard from Zhao before. 

‘Passing of Time’ slows the EP down, a breath of fresh air permeating the previous beats

‘Lifetime’ wraps up the EP. The song opens with this lovely chorus of ambient vocals, with the slow addition of percussion instrumentals being added in. The song retains its 80s vibe in the cadence of Zhao’s vocals; like those twisted love songs of the 80s, Zhao sings smoothly and slowly, tinged by only a slight bite. The song again has the characteristic explorative space, as instrumentals layer over one another, providing a back drop for self discovery.

In the world of single sounds and similar notes, Zhao offers an ambient electronic pop EP that pulls away from genres and decades, producing an easy-to-listen-to EP. Ride is a genius balance of sound and textures, anchored by simple yet profound lyrics. While Zhao may be new to our list, I’m sure his name will soon be synonymous with chill music that releases constant good vibes. 

Music contributor from Los Angeles. PhD in Music Festivals and Identity. (@kyliemccormick)


9th November 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Atwood Magazine