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How Fractures Went From Being a Folk Success to Full Electronic Artist

An outsider in Melbourne’s dance/electronic scene, Mark Zito is ready to be more of a known quantity in Australia



The usually lowkey Melbourne indietronica star Fractures (Mark Zito) is finally releasing his third album, Shift – and he’s so pumped as to already be exploring future creative ventures. Zito has even been spending a couple of months networking in London, far from his chilly homebase.

“I had an ill-fated attempt last year, in summer, when everyone decided they’d much rather be soaking up the sun and doing fun things than sitting inside writing songs,” he says over Zoom. “So it’s kinda round two of that.”

Though he may be the archetypal studio rat, Zito is a genial interviewee with dry humour. “I mean, who doesn’t like being asked questions about themselves?” he quips. “Easy. I know all the answers.”

The follow-up to 2017’s cerebral Still HereShift represents a “departure” for Zito, the singer/songwriter heralding it as “my first real fully-fledged effort into writing a full album of electronic music.”

But, while trading on Fractures‘ electro-acoustic profile, Shift sounds less like Bon Iver’s hybrid folk than RÜFÜS DU SOL‘s epic house – its songs simultaneously euphoric and melancholy. Above all, Zito imagines that Shift, led by the slinky single “Medium”, will reach new ears, despite his previously clocking up over 40 million streams globally. “I’m kind of ready to be a bit more of a known quantity in Australia and otherwise.”

The multi-instrumentalist introduced Fractures in 2013 with the track “Twisted” – “a half, half deal with live guitars and vocals and things within electronic beats.” The next year, he issued his self-titled debut, and was booked for Splendour in the Grass, but didn’t obviously establish himself as an electronic/dance act.

Zito returned with the broody Still Here, chronicling his recovery from a random neck injury. “I veered a bit towards more of the instrumental alt-rock, indie-pop, rock side of things, for whatever reason,” he states. “It’s just what I felt like doing.”

Zito’s artistic progression has taken other twists and turns. In 2018 he signed to the US FADER label and rolled out successive EPs, plunging into EDM-pop with singles like “Chains”, featuring The Chainsmokers’ cohort ROZES (notably, he played Live Nation’s Ones To Watch showcase at Los Angeles’ Black Rabbit Rose).

Yet, similarly to Byron Bay folkie RY X, Zito was also approached by credible electronic producers for collaborations – the first Set Mo. He’s since worked with Americans such as Lane Eight and Paraleven – the latter on RÜFÜS DU SOL’s LA-based Rose Avenue Records.

Most recently, Zito contributed to an album from the Russian trance DJ ARTY (under his ALPHA 9 alias) for Above & Beyond’s Anjunabeats stable. And he found these exchanges reinvigorating. “It’s nice to put my voice on something that’s kind of lateral to what I’m doing, and relevant to what I’m doing, but it’s like flexing a different muscle and a different exercise for me.” As such, he was determined to go “all-out electronic” with Shift, putting aside his guitar.

In fact, Zito commenced Shift prior to COVID-19. “The pandemic gave me the freedom to just have no distractions and basically see this thing through.” The process was largely about him experimenting in the studio (ever wry, he concedes that gear-talk comes across as “unromantic).

Significantly, Zito resolved on a direction early – Shift’s material changing little. “It was probably one of the more considered efforts of mine – ’cause I definitely had a tendency just to amass songs of different genres and follow flights of fancy and then hope that they were cohesive when I smushed them together in a package at the end.” That was “a lesson learned” from especially Still Here – which Zito now deems “a bit of a fruit salad.” He adds, “I kind of wanted to right that wrong.”

Still, Shift is again personal, albeit amorphously – being a product of lockdown seclusion. “Like a lot of people, not a heap was happening,” Zito rues. Apart from making music, he indulged in daily two-hour walks, his songwriting reflecting “a surplus of introspection.”

“Whether or not I actually gleaned anything from that about myself, I’m not sure,” Zito ponders. “But the constant looking inward just meant that it probably came through the lyrics. There’s a lot of existential angst and querying of where I’m at in my life.” However, he did compose some songs simply to “evoke” a feeling. “The prevailing theme, as the LP title implies, is just the shifts in everything in my life and my way of thinking.”

The key influence on Shift is British house, but Zito isn’t “an avid music listener.” Typically, he uses tracks as references in terms of mood. “Secret”, the producer reveals, is “an ode to Burial, if he were to write a pop song.” Then “Connect” has a UK garage current, recalling Fred again.. – Zito being a fan.

But Zito acknowledges, too, the sonic impression of his crossover compatriots RÜFÜS DU SOL on Shift. “It’s definitely just a mix of everything I like about electronic music, without necessarily being an expert at it or a connoisseur of it.”

Back home, Zito is perceived as an outsider. He grants that not forging connections in Melbourne’s dance/electronic scene has isolated him. “I’m not particularly adept at networking or getting myself out there.” The dilemma is that he’s primarily a live musician. “I’m certainly not the kinda guy who’s gonna be in a club or watching a DJ set anywhere past 11pm.”

Restless, Zito is “well and truly advanced” in cutting fresh music – Shift increasingly transitional. “Hopefully people are ready to receive a deluge,” he tantalises. Mind, Zito is committed to promoting the project. Pre-chat, he was contemplating remixers. Beyond that, Zito intends to tour Shift “towards the end of the year.” Aspiring to present “a live spectacle,” he mainly needs to settle on a format. Indeed, Zito is “not doing the band thing right now,” but he’s reluctant to play solo. “I just don’t think seeing one guy on stage hammering keys and singing is that entertaining.”

But Zito’s Shift era is about embracing challenges. “Because it’s a new side of me, I’m keen to show it off,” he stresses. “I feel like it’ll be a lot more immediate for people who are maybe passing on by, as opposed to the older stuff I made, which really required a longer attention span. I think this stuff’s a bit more upfront and you know what you’re getting.”

Fractures’ Shift is out now.