Seldom is the occasion I choose not to purchase a release by Felix Manuel, otherwise known as Djrum. Manuel boasts a near obsessive appreciation for sound design - as inspired by an incredibly diverse record collection - and combines this with a training in and affinity for more extreme dance musics. Manuel, a former Yardcore crew-member, is as well versed in breakcore, gabber and other strands of hardcore as he is in spiritual free jazz and cosmic sludge. Typically this makes for a creation lusciously built, and strongly purposed. Missing the chance to grab his debut LP Seven Lies for a reasonable price still haunts me…
Gladly, Manuel’s latest effort has been green lit by R&S, a label that should require no introduction to electronic dance music fans. Such a release typically lauded as a big deal, I am left delighted by appreciating Broken Glass Arch as sitting amongst R&S’s back catalogue comfortably. It's not too out of place, and yet presents something anew - the dream conflict.
The leading title track opens with a syncopated Reich-esque clapping frenzy and slowly grows and grows more and more into a progressively off-kilter techno number. With Djrum’s signature hinting, developing and withdrawing certain elements in the mix, we have three significant builds of tension each as distinct from the last incorporating chants, strings, and shifting bassline rhythms. Of course the clapping returns to finish us off, and the manner in which this is done boasts Manuel’s stringent mixdown treatment. Juxtaposing crisp, frail and brittle sounds against furious, broken and distorted bass tones is a science few can reproduce without significant loss of either.
Showreel, Pt.1 provides for us the cinematic edge at home in most Djrum’s productions. A pretty generous three-minute piano based interlude, conjured up is a tender and romantic soundstage that allows us some breathing space. Injured and groaning strings whoosh us away into the ether, setting the stage for its much larger sister-piece.
Showreel, Pt. 2 is the choice cut here. A brooding introduction slowly builds with feathered splicing of some angelic near-vocal. The interplay of craftsmanship in the mids with the onset of precisely positioned march-like drum licks bursts into one of the cleanest amen chops this year. Quintessentially Djrum, a passion for drum manipulation and design like no other justifies the Queen of Manchester techno, Kerrie, to label his attention to programming as ‘f***ing mint’. Before long we are soaked in Reese, and playful amen shifts. Watch out for ‘that part where it all gets a bit breakcorey’ - an intense and self-contained phrase that exits is as quickly as it appears and nuances the artist’s appreciation to those that know a stamp not unfamiliar to Djrum’s productions. Focusing the cinematic nature of Pt. 1, this 9-minute belter tastefully develops its string section into something that treads the line of mystically pretty and clinically hard- and unmistakably UK.
Brushes, chimes, shakers, drum rattles and horns beautifully pepper the outro and such a shimmering, emotively charged slab of dance music could only serve Djrum as its master. I lie eagerly in wait of whatever he chooses to meddle with next. Top drawer.
Words: Rajan Sundavadra