[sic] Magazine

Jam City – Dream A Garden

People change. Whether across years or overnight, rapidly or gradually, drastically or minutely, consciously or unknowingly, people are constantly becoming different to their past selves. Artists are no different, and this is reflected in their art. Yet I can’t recall such a chiasmic gulf in stylistic variation between debut and sophomore LPs as is the case here.

Three years ago Jack Latham (Jam City) released an album that still stands as the best full length to come out of the new wave of underground electronic dance music that emerged in the wake of the dubstep/’bass’ music explosion of the late 00s. Classical Curves both summarised the trends of that time and acted as a beacon, shining a guiding light towards the potential future, galvanising a legion of bedroom producers towards a specific sonic route. Taking the genetic strands of a host of club-orientated genres, removing the extraneous elements, re-tabulating the purpose of the sounds, and splicing them together into minimalist compositions that managed to be both innovative and eccentric without forsaking emotion and beauty. On Dream a Garden not only is the emotional aspect not relegated to a secondary feature, it becomes the sole focus of the music.

Obviously, emotions stirred by music are entirely subjective, the attachment of feelings to the mental processing of the air pressure fluctuations that constitute sound being a reflection of the listener and not the art, yet on this album it is clear that Jam City has targeted a particularly emotionally resonant sound. Although the vestiges of Classical Curves can be discerned, they are buried deep within the mix, smothered in layers of misted ambience. Gone are the glossy vistas of the hi-tech future, replacing them the lo-fi earthiness of hypnagogia, here in the form of hazy washes of sun-bleached synths, distant, strained vocals and chiming, effects-laden guitar jangles. Somewhat similar to Torn Hawk‘s album from last year, a smeared and smudged atmosphere pervades, with a definite shift towards pretty melodies, sentimental harmonies and a somehow reassuringly nostalgic aura, almost approaching the chillwave territory of artists like Ducktails and Sun Araw, at times even the dream-pop of Cocteau Twins and Durutti Column, or the kind of thing I’d imagine hearing in an old Michael Mann film. Even with the industrial underlays and added sonic grubbiness, this is just a really beautiful, understated record, and I think that’s exactly what Jam City wanted to create, kind of like what Dean Blunt did on The Redeemer, only with much more identifiable sincerity and transparency of intent. The music isn’t difficult or esoteric, it isn’t avant-garde or revolutionary, it merely exists as a thoroughly enjoyable and moving listen.

In comparison to Classical Curves, which I felt had a wider scope of emotional triggers, here there has been a clear effort made by Jam City to attenuate that diversity, honing in on what is essential to his aesthetic principles and philosophy. This album could be construed as a rejection of novelty in favour of naiveté, but I feel it’s an attempt to escape the ever accelerating evolution of style, returning to a simpler method of conveying an intangible sentiment. It certainly doesn’t sound as ground-breaking or have as idiosyncratic an identity as his previous effort, nor do I find it quite as interesting, having the quality of being somehow very fleeting and slight, but nevertheless, it functions as a bold statement about both the prioritisation of artistic vision over fashion, and the acceptance of the inevitability of personal change throughout our lives.

Jam City at Night Slugs