Album Review: Jacob Collier – Djesse Vol. 3

By Martha Lily Dean

Released on 14th August, Djesse Vol. 3 is the third of ’s four-part planned album series. Throughout its production, Collier has hinted that this album would defy traditional genres, as well as ground itself in a more contemporary and popular soundscape. This new sound is indeed an exciting and accessible turn for Jacob to have taken. Having released a handful of singles in the run up to its drop, some fans will have understandably been left disappointed by the lack of soul in many of the newly released tracks, replaced instead by a newfound love of Dubstep and speed rapping. Saying this, however, the album also contains many musical gems and presents a new level of emotional maturity from Collier. Moments of stillness and simplicity provide some immaculate songs, and unsurprisingly, the album shows off Collier’s impeccable, and unmatchable, production skills.

The overture of the album, ‘Clarity’ prepares the listener for a different set of sounds in Collier’s music, centred in electronic music, and featuring snippets of previous albums, as well as moments from Vol.3. This piece is characterized by glitches, a new feature from Collier, before immediately morphing into ‘Count the People’, featuring both Jesse Reyez and T-Pain. This track is Collier’s debut in speed-rapping, and has produced a somewhat marmite reaction from fans. Sounding so inauthentic to Collier’s typical music, I had to check that Spotify had not jumped albums. The track dives into a world of dance-pop, with the listener transported to a club dancefloor. Aided by Logic Varispeed, a feature used throughout the album, Collier’s rapping is rather frantic. It is an unusual choice for an opening song, and all in all sounds like a rather typical club tune; an interesting, but also disappointing, start to what is an otherwise sublimely unique album.

“Modulating to the key of E-flat-half-sharp in the final chorus to produce a feeling of euphoria is one of the crowning moments of Collier’s album.”

‘In My Bones’ would have been a far more striking opener. The track, released earlier this year, features Kimbra on guest vocals and MonoNeon on bass. Inspired by sounds of the 80s, it can be easily linked to Michael Jackson and Prince, both long-time inspirations to Collier’s style. It is very accessible to the pop world, yet each time it is played, the listener will find another musical element to newly appreciate. ‘Time Alone With You’, another track released as a single, is more laidback in nature. Featuring Daniel Caesar on vocals, and James Copus on trumpet and flugelhorn, it is a brief moment of calm to the cacophony that has preceded it. The only overpowering element of this song is Collier’s stacked harmonies, once again employing Logic Varispeed, giving the higher octaves a harsh and unnatural quality. However, in comparison to other moments, they suit the song and build up to the climax along with the instrumentation in a way that enhances the lyrics.

“It is very accessible to the pop world, yet each time it is played, the listener will find another musical element to newly appreciate.”

‘All I Need’ took Collier about 6 months in total to perfect, and employs a total of 646 tracks in Logic. Modulating to the key of E-flat-half-sharp in the final chorus to produce a feeling of euphoria is one of the crowning moments of Collier’s album. Even if the listener does not notice the move to a frequency that is almost never explored in popular music, this moment musically enhances emotions that boost Collier’s abilities to untouchable levels. This newfound emotional maturity is also present in ‘In Too Deep’ and ‘He Won’t Hold You’, two transparent songs within Collier’s packed line up. Composed in a chorale style, the simplicity of ‘He Won’t Hold You’ proves that Collier does not need to over-produce his music to provide his audience with stunning tracks.

Overall, Djesse Vol. 3 has left me excited for what the final installment of Collier’s musical series has in store for listeners. His chameleon-like qualities have allowed him to work with many artists, consistently producing unique and remarkable songs. Collier’s new sound has brought him the closest he has been to breaking into the contemporary pop market – I am sure that if he continues to expand his style, he will reach an even broader market.

Image: performing at Montreux Jazz Festival by Jon Tilkin.

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