Djrum, "Sex" (R&S)
The Portrait with Firewood album by Djrum (aka English musician Felix Manuel), is an intriguing record that refuses to slot easily into any genre—a trait of some of the most interesting music occurring in electronic/club realms. On this nine-track LP, Djrum explores rich seams of ambient/soundtrack, minimalist piano (which he plays himself; the classically trained Manuel is an acolyte of Alice Coltrane and Keith Jarrett), abstract IDM, post-dubstep, and what he calls "#Ambient Gabber" (check "Showreel Pt. 3" for proof that this descriptor is not a joke). For this LP, Manuel eschewed his usual method of sampling and used the piano as his fundamental sound source. If Portrait with Firewood is dance music, it's that for an advanced, alien race blessed with more limbs than humans' typical allotment.
In a press release for Portrait with Firewood, Manuel states that his goal was to produce an "overwhelmingly beautiful" work, but also to capture the "inherent melancholy in beauty in all its impermanence and fragility." Performance artist Marina Abramovic was a major inspiration. Manuel observed, "[Abramovic] has an incredibly deep understanding of the human condition, and expresses it in such a poetic way. Many of the themes of her work had particular resonance for me over the course of 2017 as I worked on the album."
"Sex" comes off like a rave anthem that's been muted, veiled, and submerged to a subterranean zone where everything sounds more erotic. A woman's melismatic moans float amid frantically ticking cymbals and hi-hats, manically pummeled hand drums and ramrodding, woody beats. About halfway through, Djrum unexpectedly weaves in strings and gentle, water-colored piano to subvert the raunchy rhythmic action. There's a helluva lot happening here, with Djrum mapping a complex narrative arc, and all of the fascinating elements commingle in a manner that suggests a deep intuition for mind/body optimization.