Djrum: Plantain / What I Was Doing When I Was Doing What I Was Doing
Samurai Red Seal

Felix Manuel was the deserved recipient of praise and attention when his excellent Djrum debut full-length Seven Lies (the ‘j' silent, by the way) appeared midway through 2013 courtesy of 2nd Drop Records. The album's genre-transcending material presented a heady mix of beats and samples that suggested ties to dubstep, garage, and techno without declaring allegiance to any one in particular. Manuel now appears on Samurai Red Seal for the first time with a two-track single available in twelve-inch marbled vinyl. Once again straddling multiple genres simultaneously, the new material defies predictability as it courses its way through seventeen mesmerizing minutes.

It takes a minute or two for the structure of “Plantain” to come into focus, but gradually its blend of female cooing, plaintive string phrases, rat-a-tat percussion, and slow-motion rhythmning coalesces into a trippy dubstep-and-techno collage peppered with speaking voices. But in an abrupt change-up, Manuel shifts gears halfway through in reshaping the track's swinging pulse into something considerably more African-influenced. As if to remove any doubt, chanting also works its way into the dense arrangement, pushing the material even further in an African direction. By comparison, the B-side “What I Was Doing When I Was Doing What I Was Doing” is the more rhythm-centric of the two cuts, with the track in this case digging into a high-velocity rumble that's as indebted to drum'n'bass as it is garage and house. Things happen fast in Djrum's universe, and the listener is consistently dazzled by a rapid-fire succession of voice samples, claps, and percussive flurries. If this accomplished set of tracks provokes one response above all others, it's the desire for another full-length serving of Djrum material.

March 2015