The UK DJ-producer falters slightly through his own split personalities, but succeeds greatly elsewhere.
In his DJ sets and his original work, Djrum (real name Felix Manuel) sets his sights indisputably high. Following a 2010 debut two-tracker that spun slow, downtempo dubstep in the style of Burial, the Londoner’s releases began straying further from any specific genre mould. As his production chops expanded, so too did his comfort in vacillating at will between the tension of breakbeat, the depth of techno, and the emotive capabilities of UK garage. With the evolution of his creative output as a backdrop, Manuel’s 2016 EP trilogy from 2nd Drop Records is his most ambitious project to date. LA, the second in the series,provides a concise midway point between the duelling personalities of the instalments that precede and follow it.
June 10-released Forgetting was a patient opening EP. It concluded appropriately with the tranquility of “Forgetting Coda,” a piano track tastefully augmented with a light dose of studio slight-of-hand.
Manuel’s follow-up, LA, is considerably more direct. Without losing any atmosphere, the EP sheds its predecessor’s hesitancy to cut loose into an unrestrained break or body-moving kick drum. The title track gets the ball rolling with a soulful, dynamically arranged breakbeat piece, garage-appropriate vocals in tow. To conclude, recognizable jungle tropes are given an atypical shimmer in “Abandon Me” by expert sound design and a gravitation towards a techno backbone.
In a manner that echoes Forgetting, LA commands a particular more-is-more approach to instrumentation and composition that has marked Manuel’s work over the course of his five-year career. Unfortunately, this philosophy doesn’t always translate to a more compelling finished product, even for someone as singularly talented as he is. The melancholic strings of “LA” seem a bit out of sorts in context, convoluted further by the constant alternating between various paces. Furthermore, the interplay between wistful temperaments and dance sensibilities don’t always seem to agree on direction, at least throughout the entire trilogy’s thematic arc.
Ultimately, a minor identity crisis is overshadowed by strong musicianship. Despite clashing mood swings, Manuel manages to give compelling nuance to some of the UK’s most visible and storied electronic music traditions.
02. Abandon Me
Order both tracks on wax or on digital here.