The Prickle (@ThePrickle) December 07, 2018
Last time Jacob Collier released an album he was “In My Room” (well, in his room, but you get it). Now in the overture for new record Djesse (Vol. 1) we find him ‘In My World’. It’s a lyrical statement of musical intent at the beginning of a 4-album Djesse journey that signals a growing confidence in his own abilities and an insatiable appetite for exploration. So does the music deliver?
If Collier’s new album is indeed an invitation into —or projection of— his world, it is a world in which the tectonic plates of disparate musical influences and revealing lyrics are colliding in rather pleasing fashion. From the opening ‘Home Is’ we hear aspects of Eric Whitacre-like scrunchy choral composition and a patient construction meditating on home. For a musician so content in his family music room but so often on the road this appears to be an intentional and non-decisive beginning to a record of such confidence. It is the first in a series of artistic juxtapositions most fully-embodied by first single ‘With the Love In My Heart’ which is a density of lyrics, harmony and rhythmic invention. This is a record that not only invites but requires multiple listens to fully plug into Jacob Collier’s super-ultra-fast-fibre connection to the musical internet of things. While his acolytes will give it the time it deserves, it remains to see whether this album will reach into new audiences and if so, how they identify (classical, jazz, funk…music).
Although only 9-tracks long, each one of these compositions/pieces/songs (delete as per your musical tribe allegiance) is an island to be explored in the Djesse archipelago. ‘Ocean Wide Canyon Deep’ sounds rather like a Laura Mvula track from her Metropole Orkest album under Jules Buckley (who conducts the MO here too) in 2014 and sounds even more like that as Laura herself joins the fray. In the eponymous track we get a bunch of autobiographical exposition as the character ‘Djesse’ is revealed as something akin to Becca Steven’s Regina: a muse to inspire and give permission for creative ambition. ‘Let me be what I can be’, Jacob asks of the muse in an unfettered album where it seems clear that all the permission requested in collaboration, orchestration and production was freely given. While the covers (‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’ and ‘All Night Long’) demonstrate an ongoing love and talent for toying harmonically with well-known melody, it is ‘Everlasting Motion’ featuring Hamid El Kasri (gnawa musician, vocalist, guembri player) that delivers as much and more than at Jacob’s Prom this last summer.
Here then is the real triumph of this album. In letting his grip loosen on the ‘one-man-band-in-his-room’ approach to music-making, Jacob Collier’s undoubted musical genius is starting to cross-fertilise with comparative talent from all sorts of interesting climates. The pedigree, variety and collaborative harmony evident across Djesse (Vol. 1) is a beautiful lesson in collaborating outside of your comfort zone. All the greats arrive at this realisation, and this record is yet another impressively rich indication that Jacob is on the way to being one of the Greats.