Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Night Slugs
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Experimental Electronic
Announced via last year’s single Unhappy, producer Jack Latham’s radical new direction did not meet with untrammelled delight from fans of his previous work. It’s obvious why. His acclaimed debut Classical Curves offered post-dubstep club music, but if you had to characterise its successor, you’d be more likely to describe it as shoegazing: it features Latham’s wispy vocals buried beneath woozy electronics.
In October 2014, Jack Latham teased the March 2015 release of his second Jam City album with "Unhappy. " The song marked an abrupt shift in his sound. Gone were the metallic, stuttering beats and glistening melodies epitomized in Classical Curves tracks "Her" and "How to Relate to the Body.
Without reading anything about it, you may not immediately recognise this second album by Jam City, aka London producer Jack Latham, as a protest record. A departure from the glossy, alien-sounding club music of his debut, it’s a slow, fragmentary work taking cues from drone and post-punk, with Latham’s vocals half-buried in layers of sound. But the clues are there in track titles – Unhappy and Black Friday hint at a critique of neoliberalism – and the texture of the music.
“The celestial Empire will come crashing down over your head! Everything on this Earth, everything made of flesh is shit, and should be treated as such. Paranoid withdrawal, a return to the roots of naturing nature, total dissent on the part of the order of ambient significations…the dice are cast, there will be much more where this came from…”– Felix Guattarri, “On the Question of ‘Primordial Bureaucratic States’” Would it hurt too many feelings to call Punk ideology the central Anglo-American ideology? When restricted to contemporary discourse, I’d even argue that most dominant narratives, especially within music, are entrapped in its sweet legacy. If we were to relegate the entire culture of punk into the more manageable “DIY,” it’s easy to see its use of classic British-American individualism as taken up in opposition to capitalism; doing-it-yourself seeks to swap out the assumed solitary pursuit of capital for the pursuit of personal accountability, personal identity, and often enough, sadly, personal escape, personal schizophrenia, personal surreality, and personal failed dreams.
When Jam City's Jack Latham debuted his Dream a Garden material at Krakow's Unsound festival last fall, he scattered an armload of roses across the stage before strapping on a guitar and stepping behind a laptop and microphone. It was a dramatic way of wiping the slate clean, of marking a line between "then" and "now. " Previously, he had been known as one of the standard-bearers for the Night Slugs label and its concussive club sound, and his 2012 album Classical Curves is widely regarded as one of the label's high points.
After dropping his impressive debut album in 2012, Jack Latham offered up two stellar online mixes called Earthly in 2013 and 2014. Each laid bare the strains of music that made Classical Curves what it was, throwing Divoli S'vere and Neana together with Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins. But when the third Earthly dropped late last year, it was as if the rigid beats of the first two had melted into a puddle.
Dance and experimental producers crossing over into pop territory is nothing new, but the dismissive response given by underground critics and listeners to those who make the jump sometimes ignores talents who were never comfortable in the club's confines to start. Bass music and dubstep have already had their share of crossover success stories, both reluctant – Burial – and those who openly courted it, like James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Darkstar. In the case of Jam City, his initial appearance on the altogether more floor-focused Night Slugs presented a problem that was only exacerbated by the highly-rated Classical Curves, a reaching debut album that opened more questions about his intent than it gave answers.
The jarring, sculptural rhythms on English musician Jack Latham's (aka Jam City) 2012 debut, Classical Curves, existed on house and techno's futuristic outskirts. His follow-up is much easier to zone out to, though the whoosh of abrasive beats frequently threatens the gentle riffs and pleasingly woozy synths. The mix of destabilizing, blissed-out sounds underscores a paradox inherent in the lyrics' critique of capitalism.