Jus Jam - 90s Anxiety (Broken District, 2021)
The latest instalment in the sublime Broken District discography sees label head Jus Jam explore all aspects of nostalgic feelings with a glorious 6 tracker that showcases all the variety and production finesse you could wish for.
Applying a broadness into your music will always reap rewards, and to do so over the course of a series of releases just binds listeners closer and closer to your work. It showcases a willingness to be bold and brave, to contemplate numerous strands of audial characteristics and flavours that accumulate into sets of cuts that channel into varying historical and contemporary trends and sounds. A willingness that is conjured up through passions and creative will, an eagerness to draw power from a wide array of spaces, places and individuals, with the result being music that wears its heart on its sleeve and isn't afraid to show all of its potential to you. More often than not, the diversity that comes with these kinds of sounds allows us to build imagined bridges and links within our mind, to explore mentally the journeys which producers go on in order to conjure up the music presented to us, with those meanderings often leading us into the past, the present and indeed an imagined future. We begin to see stylings that have been long established seamlessly interlink with features that have become accepted and understood in today's soundscapes, within sounds that remain rooted in the foundations but contain so much space to explore, to grow and to abound. Its these kinds of considered approaches that lead to fresh and invigorating sounds, ones that draw power from all the diversity that persisted before during the 80s, 90s and 00s, and utilise that quality, that shared creative will, to explore avenues that contain all the enriching notions you could wish for. Within electronica now, in all its forms, its those who take the time to seeks differing view points, to manipulate and tenderise percussive and melodic features, and to really traverse the expansive plains of their creative realms, that conjure up releases that aren't just brilliant in terms of their aesthetics but have a deep intelligence to them. Its music that feels alive and invigorated, never thinking for a moment of standing still and becoming stagnant but eager to offer over something to the ongoing discourse, willing to give over something to the advancement of dance music as we know it. Whereas before, giant leaps were made frequently in the invention of new sounds that seemed inconceivable years before, whereas now its all about the smaller steps, the little jumps forward that serve up so much excitement within listeners. In a time where many are getting on the bandwagon of replicating the sounds of the past, only those who truly dedicate themselves to the lessons in sonics, moods and application will make the biggest contribution, pairing their passions with their own take on the contemporary discourse with records that conjure up so much about the past but sound overtly bold and refreshing. To have one without the other is fine too, but there is simply so much magic about a 90s head doing their thing within the lens of the decade and all it had to offer, and coming out the other side with a project or projects that echo and reflect that oh so glorious period in music's history, but with a shiny new coat on top that remains simply irresistible.
No one has really done more to pair so perfectly the sounds of yesterday and today as much as producer, DJ and label head Stéphane Bonnamy, who via his own music and his labels has paired so well the tropes of the past with the infectious melodic tendencies of today. Bonnamy has been releasing music since 2011, and the evolution of his sound can be very much interlinked to the existence of his two labels - Khasia Hills, which debuted in 2017, and Broken District, which had its first release in 2018, with both showcasing similar but ever so slightly differing aspects to his musical ideology. Bonnamy went for a real housey angle with Khasia, releasing a number of gorgeous jazzy jams on the label, that touched on the deep house sound that prevailed so incessantly during the early 90s, with soft swelling synths and delightful key work operating on top of well balanced and purposeful beats. He and the other producers who released on the label nailed the sense of enveloping the listener in the music, as all sides on our peripheries are filled with a golden glowing hue that resonates from within the synths, a tactic that served the original sound so very well indeed. For a contemporary house label - of which there are countless - the label did much to further the modern day discourse, with a signature blend of drums and keys applied to each cut that gave them all a hefty dosage of soul, purpose and meaning. In many ways, the label served as an important sonic and melodic foundation for the next step in Bonnamy's musical adventure, which arrived in the form of the Broken District imprint, which took the adoration for the 90s one step further with the integration of Broken Beat and Future Jazz undertones, all blended within a house leaning spectrum of rhythm, and the results have consistently been utterly glorious. Like with the Khasia imprint, Bonnamy steers the helm with conviction and belief, gathering together a collection of like minded individuals and groups who share very much so in his musical beliefs, which creates a feel good family vibe to the whole affair. Each release taps into the 90s sound so convincingly, not with a surface level interest but with a impassioned engagement, drawing so much power from the aforementioned genres varying powers and bringing it completely to life in a contemporary setting, which in turn provides an authentic and believable listening experience. You leave feeling utterly content, not just with the channelling of the 90s spirit but the musicality, the dexterity and the inventiveness, with all involved working overtime to achieve an audial character that is highly playful and utterly mesmerising. Its rare that labels offer so much diversity and replayability with their releases, but you will keep coming back for more on their numerous Various Artists releases, which remains almost a standard for VA releases on any labels in regard to its spectrum and flavour of sound. Bonnamy plays his part on all but one of the various releases, adding in cuts from his Jus Jam alias where he can to show how he remains completely involved with both the curation side of things but also the conveying of sounds to us all. There's a lot to cover in regards to checking out his works and some of the superb music his label has pushed, so we'll start off with the brilliantly deep cuts found on the 'Khasia Hills Vol.2' record, that is so sophisticated and evolving, with the record arriving in 2017; the solo Jus Jam record 'Monsoon', which is every bit as intricate and emotive as the previous choice record, which arrived in 2018; and finally, all three of the first Broken District VA records, which Jus Jam featured on all, are well worth your time to check out, with the records arriving between 2018 and 2019. The mini album 'South Side' by Sofatalk is also excellent, so be sure to check that out. In all, Bonnamy clearly has a clear vision for the directions and scope of his works, both as a producer and as a label head, involving himself in the production and outputs totally in an effort to cement the labels place within the modern day dance age, and so far he has done nothing short of an outstanding job. Broken District is now one of the go to labels for excellent contemporary broken beat and future jazz music, and that all comes from Bonnamy and his steady hand and passionate mindset. Be sure to check out pretty much everything he's been involved in, its all just so top notch.
And now, we arrive at the subject of today's review, Jus Jam's first solo EP since 2018, and the name's debut EP on Broken District, '90s Anxiety'. Just like the name suggests, the record is very much an ode to the fluctuations in soundscapes and tones that occurred throughout the decade, with Bonnamy navigating it all with flair and attention to detail that resonates from all his works. The record really takes the label in new directions, as the soft jazzy undertones of previous releases are replaced with a more forceful electro and garage leaning sound, that in many ways pairs what he was doing before Broken District with what the label continually points to in terms of melodics and groove. The record in short is a triumph, easily one of Jus Jam's best releases, and its yet another stroke of genius on Bonnamy's part in furthering the label's vibe and feel, and its achieved in the most glorious of ways. The past paired with the future never sounded so damn good, and with that, lets dive right into this little slice of heaven.....
Up first comes 'Daydream', and the opener couldn't be any more inviting if it tried. The vocal sample outlines itself over deep set swells that rhythmically leave loads of space in which features can imprint themselves into at a later date, which occurs as the skipping swinging drum beat comes in underneath, and before long we are greeted with a hefty bass line and twinkling cascading key lines. The overall picture quickly evolves from the singular and into a very involving soundscape, one that is filled with clear and crisp melodic features that intermingle within a pool of tantalising emotive features, as the track does a superb job at getting our mental state ready for a real adventure indeed. Fantastic stuff. Up next comes 'Neopolis Sound', and this one begins in similar tonal surroundings. The key line is full and continuous, starting off from down below and rising through the gears with ease and determination, as the singular snare quickly evolves with hats and additional 808 sounds fuelling the progression. The beat then drops into a full on electro feel, which is completed when the bass line pounds its way into view, which in turn invites the previously passive synth line to really mutate into a big and beautiful fuzz that shines so brightly on top of it all. The track then breaks down superbly, crafting a incredible dynamic space where elements jump from side to side with ease and delight, with additional key lines fuelling this space age exploration. The beat doesn't materialise until exactly the right moment, when the melodic features are given all the time in the world to climax and reach their fullest potential, and as we move back into the fullness of the groove we simply glide along to the exquisite melodic work, as flickering key lines simmer on the horizon line and give over continually to our sense of being. Incredible stuff. Up next comes 'Higher Sense', and once more we arrive with the singular chord crafting a sense of what is to come. The rhythm suggests another up tempo number, and its the subtlety in which this overall picture is realised, as light breakbeats arrive in and around the boundaries of the sound, building up our anticipation to the point where the electro swing beat leaves us to allow the melodic features to really up the ante. The space here is just brilliant, as the singular chord becomes a series, with little key lines adding texture and depth to the composition, with the breakbeat flickering in and around, and the switch back into the electro beat is a thing of beauty. Jus Jam intelligently shifts the breakbeat's rhythmic feel into a new set of beats entirely, creating a balance that works effortlessly within the perimeters of the sound, taking the time to move the track onwards and upwards to new heights and places. Its a flawless journey through melodic excellence, as the drifting percussive structure remains the icing on the cake as we drift and drift some more through the gentlest of tones and spaces. Beautiful stuff.
The title track comes next, and some sweet sweet chords greet us on this one. Their tone and application starts off lower down the chain but quickly grows in volume and fuzz, and before long they are joined by a lovingly made garage style beat, that compliments the chords rhythms perfectly. The vocal line adds further to the illusion, one that captures the melodic qualities of the genre but really packages it in the new age, filled with additional flourishes that make it feel so fresh, so invigorating, as the interchanging melodic features keep the fire burning eternally as time passes by. The subtle introduction of the phat bass line furthers the progressions that persist underneath, and by the time the breakdown occurs we are really involved, and like that another vocal line comes into the picture that gets the fire burning on a furious level. Everything is just so well put together, pulled off and conceived, and we cannot get enough of it. Incredible! 'Wide' arrives next, and the melodic tone comes down a gear to a more subdued place. This is quickly dispelled as the excellent beat comes into view, which helps to carry the track along at a superb tempo, before going deep underground for a moment to reveal the true melodic nature of the track. Chiming chords emerge from the undergrowth, their crystal clear intentions laid bare as the beat then swings back into view, leaving our heads nodding over and over again, as the keys resonate so well within the beat structures that weave and dip underneath, with both features working alongside each other so very well. The dips in energy allow for those quiet yet powerful as hell transitions back into the drumming sequences, with these moments crafting beautiful moments that simply take the breath away. And, to wrap things up on this wonderful EP, we have 'Ryoji's Dream', and like with all that came before we are greeted with the warmth of the chords to get us started. The keys give way to a hazy beat structure, with the overall ensemble reminiscent of the chill out rooms of old, a space where your mind is free to wonder in any direction you wish, and the eyes close when the gorgeous Rhodes chords come into picture, working alongside the lovingly curated key lines that sit on the left of the pan. The breakdown leads into a key solo that weaves and worms around the inner core of the cut, the swinging beat taking its time to steady itself before carrying the tune along in a stream of utter bliss and serenity. There could only be one way to end this record, and by bookending tracks 2 to 5 with two pieces of utter relaxation, the narrative that is conveyed to us is complete. This record is quite something.
The application, the feel, the poise, the meaning. These are all things that stick out on a deeper level from this record, one that we feel has the potential to be one of the year's best, and that remains solely down to the convictions of Bonnamy and his incredible view of music. There persists throughout a subtlety that is just irresistible, be it the manner in which keys are woven into the rhythmic bedrock, or the seamless transitions that are pulled off with such flair and skills, there's always a surprise around the corner that feeds into the melodic qualities of the track which leaves you fulfilled as hell by the end of proceedings. Its an ode to all that the 90s had to offer, but packaged and pulled off by a producer with the world at his feet. An incredible piece of music.
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