Djrum: Portrait With Firewood (R&S Records)

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earinfluxion

earinfluxion

5 November 2018

While I’d heard some tracks here and there from UK producer Felix Manuel, I was completely unprepared for just how good this album is. Portrait With Firewood could easily go full-tilt cheese with some of its R&B-tinged vocals and lush piano flourishes, but instead it all manages to tie together in a varied and immersive way, showing off Manuel’s chops as both a beatmaker and as a pianist. “Waters Rising” is perhaps the best and soonest embodiment of this on the album, with washed out guest vocals by Lola Empire over a fidgety rhythm section and gorgeous piano runs and details to complement. But in some cases, Djrum’s nods to the dancefloor are more subtle: “Creature, Pt. 1” focuses on a lonely cello, somber piano, and occasional, massive low end drops, while “Sparrow” again features vocals over a lush, cinematic spread of sound. Ending the album is “Blood In My Mouth,” featuring snippets of spoken vocals and reverberated strings, glockenspiel, and piano. There is at least one complete curveball in the form of “Showreel, Pt. 3,” whose furious and fast kick feels more like a nod to gabba than current bass music. (The preceding “Showreels” can be found on R&S EPs that preceded the album, and they give this one a little more context.) Portrait With Firewood by Djrum Portrait With Firewood is generally at its best somewhere in the middle of all of that, like the crunchy, writhing beats of “Creature, Pt. 2” or the spacious gloom of “Sex” over its insistent rhythmic tones. The clear winner for me is “Blue Violet,” over eight minutes of intricate beatmaking and reverberated pads and melodic phrases, sitting right in the center of the album as its heart. The entire album manages to split the difference between syncopated club clatter and a much more emotive, human touch, whether in the form of dense atmosphere, airy vocals, or refined, delicate piano. Highly recommended. Buy it: Bandcamp
earinfluxion

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