Yes, this is the new DJ Cam. The man who gave us Mad Blunted Jazz and The French Connection. The man who defined the genre (hate the cliche but there’s no way around it, ’cause he did) and probably influenced every single downtempo producer in France and many hundreds outside of it. Now, when there’s nothing left to define and influences don’t matter, he just makes music. I’m having a hard time figuring out Seven. If it wasn’t so cohesive (and didn’t have three tracks featuring the same vocalist) it would almost seem like a compilation of unreleased material that was created back in the early 90’s and forgotten until one day DJ Cam was cleaning up his archive and stumbled upon it and thought “hey, this is actually some pretty cool shit!” (which it undoubtedly is). And this feeling is not created by multiple and deliberate homages to the beginnings of ‘electronica’ – the days when there wasn’t even such word in music vocabulary yet – one of tracks is even titled “1988”. It’s the whole mellow and nostalgic atmosphere of the album that gave me that feeling. It doesn’t have that jerky nervousness of the trendy “retro-electronica”, where DJs are, too, using old-school synths and loops but strain themselves to make sure it sounds “avant-garde” enough so the listener would “get it”. All this doesn’t seem to concern DJ Cam in the least. “Love” (feat. Nicolette) could have been on any 90’s trip-hop compilation next to any track from Massive Attack‘s Protection and no one would suspect that the track was made 20 years in the future. Does that make the album sound… old? I’m sure some people would say so. I wouldn’t. Seven has something that is hard to capture with words and requires multiple listens to notice. It’s not an old master desperately trying to keep up with young turks making a “retro” record. This is a true master looking back and paying his respects and recognitions, to genre, to people, to his own heritage. In this sense the album reminded me a lot of Moby‘s Last Night (which is, not accidentally, one of my favorite Moby albums), but where Moby does it with spunk and even a challenge to all the hot shot new DJs out there (“this is how it’s done!”), DJ Cam soaks the tracks in nostalgia (“they don’t do it like that anymore”). Sad-face. This is why I have all kinds of admiration towards Seven (which keeps growing with every listen), but I cannot love it the way I loved Last Night. I hope that many of you can though and I’m sure that many of you will. The single “Swim” (feat. Chris James) is a quiet masterpiece where vocals are floating among so many wonderfully put together elements, which never distract or overwhelm, they just work. And that drop 3 minutes in is to freakin’ die for. The other two Chris James tracks are very good as well – the Radiohead-y “Ghost” and gorgeously layered “Uncomfortable”. And I could certainly philosophize about meaningful title of the final track – “A Loop” – but do I need to? It’s just music after all – and good music doesn’t have anything to do with time, it just needs to be listened to.
R.I.Y.L. Massive Attack – Protection, Coldplay, whales
personal favs: “Swim” (feat. Chris James), “Love” (feat. Nicolette), “Seven”