Credit: dltzk
Music by Luke Gorham

Best Albums of 2021: dltzk | Frailty

January 8, 2022

#6. Given the current character of the music industry,“online music” is quickly approaching obsolescence as a useful label — if ever it was one. The relationship between mainstream studio acts and Internet artists has become something of a closed loop, the latter taking inspiration from the former’s work in the creation of a new, followed by a subsequent role-reversal. But if this dynamic is to be understood more as ouroboros, an interdependence pushing toward some epochal artistic terminus, there are few worthier prophets to usher in a new musical world than dltzk, the 18-year-old New Jerseyite producer of moody digicore pop.

Perhaps the best entry point to dltzk’s sound is an understanding of who they’re not. Certainly, there’s a distinct melange of influence — or at least kinship — here, from the shoegaze electronica of Porter Robinson to the avant-pop of 100 gecs to the cloud rap of Bladee and lo-fi/pop-punk rap of Peep, but debut record Frailty is something entirely new, a genre-shifting work of simultaneous sonic expansion and assimilation. The album kicks off in earnest with second track “your clothes,” a masterful work of emo that feels filtered through an especially twitchy anime soundtrack. It’s a song that moves in waves, sonically and lyrically, its tempo and activity made to match its mercurial lyricism: “At least you know my name / I always change the channel when the couple starts to kiss.” Frailty blooms from this moment, a gyre of authentic Zoomer lamentations and wunderkind digital orchestrations, the album’s fuzzed out mix and glitchy progressions lending a grimy texture to its haze of buildups and breakdowns, dance-y drops and age-specific hauntings. But it’s the nearly 6-minute “movies for guys” that offers the best showcase of dltzk’s prodigious whiz-kid skill. Starting out in a blurry approximation of late-aughts radio pop, the track detours into a brief hardcore-inflected interlude before coming out the other side in pronounced GothBoiClique, croon-rap mode. It’s a song rife with genre waypoints, but Frailty’s brilliance comes in never slowing down enough to trade in mere nostalgia, and instead accelerating through each locus of inspiration until the muzzy mix becomes something entirely new. It’s a forward-looking work that only youth could produce, the difference between recycle and reinvention, and where the former has failed to save our planet’s future, dltzk has positioned himself as the potential savior of music’s immediate present.