Djrum’s second LP, and first for R&S, finds the producer returning to his roots in order to expand his sound. Still keeping the heady, sampledelic house and techno style as his bedrock, the one born Felix Manuel also gravitates back to his first instrument - the piano. Writing at the keyboard makes much of Portrait Of Firewood more harmonically lush than previous Djrum work. It’s a good look. The LP features Lola Empire and Zosia Jagodzinska, and nestled among the tracklist is another instalment of the ‘Showreel’ series that began on 2017’s Broken Glass Arch EP.
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- Portrait With Firewood by Djrum
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I’m sure the art historians among you will have already noticed that Djrum’s new album takes its name from a self-portrait by Marina Abramovic. If you did, well done! I had to get that from the press release. However you found that out, that choice tells us Djrum’s ambitions for ‘Portrait with Firewood’. Abramovic is one of the most highly regarded artists in the performance art space, often putting herself in very real danger for the sake of her work. It should be no surprise that when Jay-Z wanted a bit of that artistic aura for his track ‘Pablo Picasso’ he turned to her.
So Djrum is aiming high. And for the most part he reaches it. To give you a sense, the longer tracks aren’t long because he wants to provide a long enough runway for a DJ to mix in and out of them, but to give them space to morph and change and evolve. The most notable change to Djrum’s music is his centring of the piano. This is the instrument he learnt to play music on, and the relationship he has with it gives his compositions a delicacy and intimacy that is utterly beguiling. This, combined with Zosia Jagodzinska’s cello, and Lola Empire’s vocal, makes for an album that is very much ‘performed’ in a way he music hasn’t been before. This his jazz inflected productions as the heart of jazz lies in its performance.
The centrepiece of the record is ‘Sex’, a track that initially seems like a run of the mill techno banger. Four minutes in the drums start to fade out and piano and vocals emerge like a sunset. It’s a wonderful moment, one that fills me with child-like wonder. And fortunately, it does not stand alone.
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