DjRum: Seven Lies
As evidenced by his fine debut album Seven Lies, DjRum (real name Felix Manuel) is part of a new wave of electronic producers pushing the music to its next level. Their music is informed by multiple genres such as dubstep, house, two-step, and garage, which they're adept at integrating into personalized hybrids. Often deployed as loops that ground a track and give it colour and richness, samples are incorporated, not for novelty effect but as integral parts of a track's textural and compositional design. These are producers, in other words, whose skills are so well-honed their gear becomes a fluid extension of their creative and production processes.
On the fifty-four minute recording, myriad vocal and instrumental elements swim organically through the music in a way that suggests DjRum's approach is reminiscent of Portishead's in the dedication to texture and atmosphere shared by both acts. Blunted hip-hop is also part of the DjRum sound, and one hears echoes of DJ Shadow in a few of the cuts, too. “DAM,” for example, oozes a bit of a trip-hop vibe in its downtempo opening section, and there's no lessening of atmospheric haze in the more energized parts that follow in the nine-minute opus.
DjRum's polished sound is well-represented by “Obsession,” an infectious body-shaker informed by garage and house and whose serpentine funk groove is nicely peppered by keyboard stabs. Earworm voice samples and sirens intermingle during “Como Los Cerdos” while a dubby bass line and smoky, head-nodding beat lay out a smooth bottom end. During “Arcana (Do I Need You),” a female singer's soulful refrain imbues the driving pulse, as indebted to Detroit techno as Chicago house, with humanity, while a cello's vocal-like cry adds to the track's expansive character. It's a move repeated later in “Thankyou” when the tune's jittery jungle-inflected pulse is augmented by a violin's sweetly singing lines.
As one would expect, much of the album's material is rhythm-focused, with the tracks' clubby snap drawing from techno, house, jungle, broken beat, garage, and drum'n'bass. On sonic terms, Seven Lies can be transfixing, such as when “Anchors” overlays its frothy deep house with soaring vocal ululations (by ShadowBox) that seem to dissolve like smoke into Manuel's billowing atmospheres. Dense it might be, but his music, filled as it is with strings, female murmurs, harps, and other sounds, never collapses into incoherence.