“She loves me” are the first words heard on Mirrors, DJ Seinfeld’s first album in four years. It’s a simple yet personal statement, in keeping with the Swedish producer’s love of vocal samples that cut to the quick. But it’s also a little jarring to hear something that sweet on one of his records. Armand Jakobsson launched the project as a means of processing a breakup; his early singles and debut album were murky, melancholic house, filled with euphoria but also imbued with an inescapable sense of longing and sadness. That sample is a hint that something important has changed.
Gone are the clunky snare beats and muffled hi-hats that were everywhere on his debut, along with the saturated tape effect that coated everything else. Instead, thick and at times almost groovy basslines are everywhere, and soaring Day-Glo synths have taken center stage. Jakobsson has always had a strained relationship to the “lo-fi” tag that attached itself to his productions early on, and here he seems to revel in making music that feels nothing like his old stuff. “Walking With Your Smile” has a garage shuffle that suggests a sunnier Burial, until a gloriously cheesy processed piano reminds you who is actually making this. Closer “Song for the Lonely” feels like Jakobsson trying to prove he can make a proper club banger, with its relentless energy, constantly shape-shifting melody, and pounding kick drum. Everywhere on Mirrors the production has become crisp, smooth, and polished until it shines. Only “These Things Will Come to Be” feels like something out of the old playbook. The song’s syncopated chords build for two minutes, then fade out behind a wistful voicemail from a woman longing for days gone by. But even this moment takes an unexpected turn: The message ends on a note of acceptance and hope, and the music builds back up to transmit a sense of catharsis.
Jakobsson has always been adamant that, despite the goofy name, DJ Seinfeld was never meant as a joke or a one-trick pony. Indeed, he has hinted at a shift in his music for a while, namely on the four EPs he released on his own Young Ethics label over the past two years: All have stretched and pulled his sound, testing out variations of everything from Italo-house to large-scale trance. Making good on the sense of bliss that he has been striving to capture in his music for years, Mirrors is a culmination of these experiments—a way for DJ Seinfeld to show exactly how far he has come.
Die-hard fans might be disappointed that Jakobsson appears to have shed nearly all of the outward trappings that made his music so distinctive in the first place, trading the intimacy and mystery of his early work for something more refined and crowd-pleasing. With Mirrors, Jakobsson is making his ambition clear: He’s trying to go as big as Jamie xx did on In Colour. It’s easy to imagine many of these songs soundtracking humongous outdoor festivals, perfectly synchronized with the setting sun. Yet even in his earliest days, what made Seinfeld’s music special were the melodies hidden below the surface. Mirrors brings them into the light, in all their glory. What Jakobsson has always tried to accomplish with DJ Seinfeld was to try to tap into some grand universal emotion, a sense of want inside us all. This time, he finds it in joy instead of grief.
Buy: Rough Trade
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