Acoustic Sounds

Dean Blunt




Label: World Music (not credited)

Produced By: Dean Blunt

Lacquers Cut By: Tom Haunstein at R.A.N.D. Muzik

Dean Blunt’s Casual 'ZUSHI' Encapsulates His Artistry

The elusive underground legend’s 2019 mixtape receives a limited edition vinyl release

Every so often, the artist usually known as Dean Blunt emerges from his residence in Hackney, London to appear at an event—to prove his existence, to reassert his status as art music’s most shadowy figure of current importance. The latest appearance was a DJ set at Miami Art Basel in December, for a party hosted by NTS Radio and NFT conmen Bored Ape Yacht Club. What did the rich NFT bros’ money get them? A fogged up stage and a bored Dean Blunt blasting Sleep’s hour-long stoner epic Dopesmoker with his shoulder to the crowd. What else? Nothing; that was the DJ set.

Such are the ways of Dean Blunt, one of the most interesting and unpredictable artists of our time. His music—incredibly consistent—drops with zero notice through his own World Music label, subject to be deleted, edited, or rereleased at any time. His private and sometimes provocative persona (he once sent his bodyguard to accept an NME Award presented by Jarvis Cocker) keeps him shrouded in mystery that only helps his music, which itself is clouded in anxiety. Blunt’s music takes time and effort to understand, and even then, it retains a level of anonymity; no matter how familiar his songs become, it’s like he doesn’t want them to be identifiable by their titles. His physical releases often lack printed tracklists—which are often filled with brief interludes and untitled pieces—and there’s a multitude of projects and aliases that may or may not center around Dean Blunt himself.

Blunt and NTS must have at least some mutual respect, as World Music commenced a 2019 NTS residency by premiering the mixtape that perhaps best encapsulates Dean Blunt’s artistry. Fittingly, it’s called ZUSHI and contains 24 tracks adding up to 37 minutes spotlighting the sense of decay, malaise of modern stasis, and deep, lingering paranoia that runs through Blunt’s discography. ZUSHI combines the hypnagogic sound collage of 2012’s The Narcissist II, the more accessible art pop of 2013’s The Redeemer, the ideological cohesion of 2014’s acclaimed BLACK METAL, and the snippet-based structure of his 2016 Babyfather project ‘BBF’ Hosted By DJ Escrow. Yet ZUSHI stands apart from those in how succinct and casual it is, like a victory lap from an artist doing what he does best without completely regurgitating his prior accomplishments.

Perhaps in the spirit of its original purpose for NTS, ZUSHI doesn’t feature Dean Blunt’s voice. Instead, it’s his singular production—darkly atmospheric yet rather lush—that showcases appearances by Joanne Robertson, Panda Bear, Yung Lean (under his jonatan leandoer96 name), A$AP Rocky, Sauce Walka, and DJ Escrow, the alter ego of poet James Massiah. The musical diversity and fragmented nature of it seems to nod to pirate radio, as if you’re listening to a late night broadcast hosted by Dean Blunt. Bookended by an anxiety-inducing distorted guitar, ZUSHI’s many twists and turns still fit cohesively; even if it’s a cobbled-together set of random scraps, it still showcases the distinct identity running through all of his work. Panda Bear’s vocals on the hypnagogic “2” and “9” are dissonant, his flat voice pushed forward in a way that’s almost menacing, while frequent Blunt collaborator Joanne Robertson appears on six other tracks, her restrained voice hinting towards something sinister. The tracks credited solely to Dean Blunt are a mixture of dialog samples a la The Narcissist II, ambient bits that could’ve been plucked from The Redeemer, and noise similar to the super short BBF interludes.

Speaking of BBF (one of Blunt’s most misunderstood projects), DJ Escrow’s “17” sounds like something off that very satirical and unique record, using an extensive sample of French Montana and Future’s “No Pressure” against keyboard strings and distant-sounding drums. jonatan leandoer96’s “16” pairs his signature melodic wistfulness against Blunt’s repetitive guitar- and drum-based production, evoking a sensation similar to the confusion of waking up from a nightmare. ZUSHI’s only track that fully focuses on Dean Blunt himself is “bare,” an instrumental piano cover of SZA’s “Love Galore” credited to his minimalism alias @jesuschrist3000adhd. At nearly four minutes towards the end of the record, it’s the mixtape’s longest piece, hypnotically taking the familiar melody and improvising around the ever-present foundation. It’s one of many notable moments on ZUSHI, which ranks among his most surreal yet complete works. The lack of Blunt's vocals keeps it from being absolutely essential, but it's still one of many very solid entries in his large catalog.

ZUSHI recently got a vinyl release via World Music, though good luck finding a copy for the original retail price. World Music’s physical drops are as random as their digital releases, distributed unexpectedly through established record shops mostly in the UK (I got mine for £25 plus shipping through Rough Trade’s UK site), going in and out of stock at the places that could obtain it to begin with. The ZUSHI LP is a nondescript white label release: no album title, artist name, or tracklist, just a foldover jacket with the cover on one side (blank on the other) and a black vinyl LP, cut and pressed at R.A.N.D. Muzik in Germany. Thankfully, the record sounds great, less plasticky than the 44.1kHz/16bit stream with clean, extended bass and plenty of detail and three-dimensional space. Of the Dean Blunt vinyl pressings I currently have (this, the Babyfather BBF 2LP, and both BLACK METAL releases on Rough Trade), this easily sounds the best. Further, the pressing is flat and quiet, with only a slight bit of noise here and there. Is it worth the resale prices? If you were too slow and have $100 laying around for a minimally packaged record, well, there are worse ways to spend your money. Alternatively, you could accept your loss and be faster next time World Music presses a record. Good luck!

Music Specifications

Catalog No: ZUSHI-2023

Pressing Plant: R.A.N.D. Muzik

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-02-04 02:42:55 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    I don't need any help mustering confusion and anxiety these days. Nice dragon, though.

  • 2023-02-04 08:25:59 PM

    Ivan Bacon wrote:

    I have no need or patients for self involved, obfuscating twits.

  • 2023-02-05 01:51:48 PM

    cskdfinn wrote:

    Well written, Malachi! Looking forward to many more years of well-written articles like this. Cheers!

    • 2023-02-06 01:51:37 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I have to chime in here to write that I fully agree. It's not about whether or not you might appreciate the music. The writing is elegant and well-reasoned. We have great writers here, aged from 17 and up.

  • 2023-02-07 04:56:25 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Malachi is back!!! Welcome, my dude! I will have to search this recording digitally to see if it's to my taste. 'New and different' selection are something I always appreciate from you. Your writing is still great.

    Rough Trade is a great resource for LP variants that are very hard to find. It does take a while to pass customs and arrive. Got my 'The Smile' alternate cover / pressing. It was flat, centric and quiet.

    To Mikey- Are you going to AXPONA again this year? Need another seminar!

    Keep on keepin' on! And never mind the bullocks (or the bacon)...

    • 2023-02-07 08:53:56 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      nice to see you back in these comments as well! i definitely recommend listening to this digitally, but i suggest you listen to 'the redeemer' and 'BLACK METAL' before this one. again, it takes a bit of effort to understand dean blunt.

      rough trade (UK particularly) is pretty good for limited stuff, especially since they carry a lot of their own exclusives too. i've gotten several records and signed books from them. however, i'm still a bit pissed about the caroline polachek 'billions' 7" sold through the US site. announced in february 2022 as signed, then it arrived in october only for the signature to be an illegible scribble on a photo card. UK fans got a signed sleeve...

      • 2023-02-10 04:15:58 PM

        Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

        I'd be pissed too. Thankfully, I didn't fall into the similar Dylan situation either, though I could have.

        I will certainly listen to The Redeemer and Black Metal prior. And digital I will go first.

        Thanks, dude!