2018's LP Portrait With Firewood gained Djrum (AKA Felix Manuel) a bevy of positive press and converted fans, creating a certifiable high point of his near-decade of breaks-indebted electronica.
The record was awash with stirring cello, piano figures and vivd vocal work from guest Lola Empire and represented Djrum putting his own playing at the centre of his art for the first time, setting a previously-hidden talent alongside his love of percussive fury. It's a record that was one of my favourites of 2018 and one that landed with friends of mine of varying musical tastes.
One such friend described Portrait With Firewood as 'breaks music for people who don't like breaks' and whilst this might sound derogatory to some, it speaks far more to the eclectic, broad sound pallet that Djrum is able to weave into his music.
Trawling YouTube comments may be a fool's errand but Djrum's recent Boiler Room set - which normally illicit some of the most needlessly cruel commentary you'll find online - boasts a comment thread full of glowing praise, illustrating how he is able to bring together music fans of all stripes.
Djrum's latest EP Hard To Say/Tournesol (released on R&S Records, as Portrait With Firewood was) consists of two tracks and clocks in over the 17-minute mark. It's clear that the atmospheric, experimental bent that produced some of Portrait With Firewood's finest moments has given the London producer a confidence to continue down the winding, knotted and often-beautiful path that he began to forge on that release.
'Hard To Say' melds ambience and heft into a thumping 6.41 as a distant, drifting vocal ushers in an absolutely colossal kick pattern that eventually adds twitchy drums, acid-influenced bass riffs and snatches of sampled hand drums. The restless, hammering track manages to establish its own space among the self-created chaos: doggedly intense but never overwhelming and ultimately exhilarating. By utilising a foundation of rigid techno and allowing it a sense of uplift through swathes of ambience and colourful instrumentation, Djrum achieves something amazing on 'Hard To Say'.
'Tournesol' utilises a layered marimba motifs to anchor a playful, skipping beat as sampled chanting congregates either side. Sounding like nothing else in Djrum's catalogue, the track flows with a nervous, twitchy energy for the first half of its 10-minute duration before a it's subsumed into an aggressive gabba-influenced pattern. This pattern allows the track to melt away under its own hyperactive volition to deliver a spoken-word sample that clears the way for the rollicking breaks that hurtle us into the second half. 'Tournesol' then proceeds to thrash away until it just has nothing left before slowly the song ushers itself back into the ether, casting a few final ripples as it ceases.
Djrum's latest offering shows an artist who still has a real desire to push the envelope, delivering music that never hides his ambition or ability to bring clashing spheres together.
The absolute clamour that Hard To Say/Tournesol reaches can be off-putting for the uninitiated - Portrait With Firewood provides a far easier entry point - but those who have loved Djrum's previous work or are looking for thrilling new ground will find much to love. Let's hope he keeps questing.
Djrum - Hard To Say / Tournesol
Out 13.09 on R&S (Vinyl + Digital)