Djrum, Seven Lies

[2nd Drop Records]


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Seven Lies immediately lets you know you’re where you are: right there in the long, romantic middle of UK bass. The sounds and feeling are familiar, though Djrum asserts his debt to hip-hop more aggressively than most other producers in this style. This debut makes it look like the London producer has mastered the form enough to transcend it. Felix Manuel starts by slowing the catchall genre’s roll down to a luxurious IV drip. He sets out to establish and wallow in a near-amniotic mood for just shy of an hour, enlisting textures from trip-hop, jazz, and classical to extend dance music’s conventional vocabulary. At times it feels like a culinary or visual experience as well as an aural one. The music itself is as suggestive as it is easy to grasp. The cover art looks something like condensed milk shooting its tendrils through Vietnamese iced coffee. The music’s sweet and bitter sounds are likewise almost thick enough to coat the listener’s tongue.

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Djrum sources and handles his samples with painterly assurance. And the album format offers him ample space for tactile experiments with his various banks and the filters he subjects them to. It’s this sense of flux, which never feels busy, that sets the album apart from the reservoir of similar-sounding music more than anything else. With its drizzly off-kilter rhythms and forlorn vocals, Synkro’s nearly album-length Acceptance EP bears some aesthetic resemblance to Seven Lies. But the former reinforced its vibe through fatalistic repetition that sometimes turned into rote emotional prompting. Manuel’s compositions prioritize a jazzy interplay between sounds and how they’re phrased that keeps the listener close to the action. You follow songs from measure to measure as Djrum scrawls, smears, and jitters various snippets instead of merely reacting to familiar signposts. Compared to Djrum’s previous 12″s, too, the structures here feel organic without being abstract. The nine-minute “Watermark,” from last year’s EP of the same name, feels distinctly longer than the comparatively free-form nine minutes of Seven Lies‘ “Dam,” which is both weedy and dry — its splayed limbs controlled with some balletic precision.

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This album is at its best when it focuses on its own plasticity rather than outside expectations. Indeed, the two collaborations with the singer ShadowBox, “Lies” and “Anchors,” draw the listener slightly but noticeably out of the album’s hypnotic flow. It feels like the producer expends unnecessary energy holding back, following conventional song protocol rather than doing what comes naturally and treating the voice like so much raw material. It speaks to Djrum’s strengths that the sample-driven “Honey” is the album’s theatrical high point instead of either of ShadowBox’s guest spots. Snatches of a voice warning “You know that he’s a sinner” — plus thick globs of sub-bass and a tumble of easy-listening harps — seem destined for triteness, yet Djrum improvises a solid grammar for this ad hoc creole. Despite its workmanship, Seven Lies is something to absorb and marinate in rather than admire.

Trackbacks

Little White Earbuds May Charts 2013 | Little White Earbuds  on May 31, 2013 at 9:54 AM

[…] Garden” [Tresor] (buy) 07. DJ Sprinkles, Where Dancefloors Stand Still [Mule Musiq] (buy) 08. Djrum, “Honey” [2nd Drop Records] (buy) 09. Outboxx, “Sunshine Mills” [Idle Hands] (buy) 10. Juju […]

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