This is really the only officially released Zabiela album worthy of review in my eyes, so I'll gladly take a stab at it since he is one of my all-time favorite up and coming DJs.
The first time I heard Zabiela, it was blasting through my friend's excessively large headphones as we walked down the main road of our campus. When I asked who it was and the name 'James Zabiela' entered my musical vocabulary, personal history was made. Of course, back then I thought he must be an older, dignified pro to have created the sounds that he did; later on I found out he's fairly new, and considered Sasha's protege. I never understood this label - Sasha may have taken him under his wing and got him signed after Lee Burridge passed one of JZ's mix tapes onto him, but the styles diverge so utterly, so completely that there really is no comparison - other than musical ingenuity. And perhaps mixing skills.
This album from Renaissance is a unique one, not only because of the choice DJ showcased within this double-disc set, but also due to the collision of two worlds. Respect the names of each CD ('Computerized' and 'Recorded', respectively): they are entirely indicative of the content within.
'Computerized' is the largest deviation from mainstream dance, trance and house music that I have ever heard - more along the lines of a breakbeat Digweed Fabric20 - and took me the longest to get into. Now I can't put it down. The term 'Robot Funk' has been mentioned above, and I will reiterate that heartily. Computerized starts out weakly; the first four tracks don't excite me, and the fifth track I only listen to because it builds nicely into the sixth track - the point at which the album really picks up. Tracks 6,7 (This Is Sick, EyeAmComputer) are fantastic, and EyeAmComputer is one of two tracks of Zabiela's own devising. Following these are two successive mixes of Lee Coombs' "Outta My Mind". Tracks like James Zabiela's second original, "Robophobia (JZ Childhood Edit)", "Future Love" and "Snabein" show indications that Zabiela has finally hit his stride as far as Computerized is concerned.
James did an interesting thing ending Computerized with "Through You (Outro) and beginning Recorded with "Through You". Within this album there is a clash between technology and man - a clash seemingly easy to demonstrate. What makes the Outro of Computerized and the first track of Recorded significant is the attempt to -connect- the two divergent worlds, producing a package of cerebral assault beats utilizing computer technology like Ableton Live (Mix 1) and the more traditional CDJ1000's/sampler/FX units (Mix 2). I think James tried to make this clash of technologies obvious; on the inside insert on the CD booklet there is a photo of Zabiela surrounded by toy robots; but the one he holds up, the robot from "Futurama", sports an apron which says "Kill All Humans." A scary thought, but I found it humorous.
'Recorded', as mentioned above, is mixed and simply created more traditionally, but it is the better of the two mixes as many below me have stated. 'Through You', the mix's 10+ minute lead-in, crashes into 'The Escape', and then the insanity of 'Rykketid' and 'One Flew Over the Cucoo's Nest" follow closely at the heels. This mix never lets the listener take a significant breather, and the beats are nothing short of SICK. This is definitely breakbeat-infused raving progressive trance music at its finest; the track selection on Recorded is one of my favorite line-ups in any mix CD I own. 'Feelin Electro' and 'At the Rave' echo this sentiment - not just in name only! Zabiela adds some absolutely WACKY and wholly unorthodox samples and effects into these tracks, as my buddy would say, "...simply because he can."
Overall, this album is a must for anyone who enjoys Zabiela's style, in any capacity. Compared to his live sets (which are nothing short of ecstasy and adrenaline) this album pales; I see this as an indication of his true ability. It's easy to create a damn good studio album with the right talent - but when one is known better for performing live... well, James has this going for him. But as a studio album, for the prospective buyer and anyone looking to get into Zabiela, "Utilities" is a truly fine set of insanity that I believe will lead most anybody to watch out for this guy. It is truly a set of fantastic recordings and genius that will see itself paving the way for electronic music in the future.