- "I just want to have some fun with it, I don't want to take myself too seriously, I don't want to take anything too seriously apart from the music." Speaking recently to Groove, Armand Jakobsson recalled the thought process behind choosing the name DJ Seinfeld. You can't blame him for craving a little light relief around that time—he'd just been through a break-up. (He coped by binge-watching the US sitcom in his bedroom.) When he eventually returned to making music, he felt inspired. Within the space of two or three months, he'd completed several albums' worth of material.
Time Spent Away From U, Jakobsson's debut full-length, collects some of these tracks. (The digital version features nine to the triple-pack vinyl's 13.) As its title suggests, it wears its emotions on its sleeve, brighter and housier than anything he's released to date. Diva vocals, rarely spotted in the rest of his work, dominate. So do crunchy drums and imitation tape hiss, both calling cards of the so-called lo-fi sound with which he's affiliated. Stylistically, the LP is fresh ground for Jakobsson, and plenty of it is very listenable and playable. But it's also some of the Swede's least imaginative work.
Two main factors play into this: the music's scruffy aesthetic and its fetish for '90s house. Ever since Bicep broke through with the Kerri Chandler-indebted "Vision Of Love" in 2012, modern house music has obsessively repackaged that golden era. The likes of "Too Late For U And M1," with its Korg M1 organ sound (famously used on Robin S's "Show Me Love"), and "It's Just My Luv," with its choppy R&B vocals, are lush and catchy, but they borrow too liberally from that style. It also doesn't help that most of the tracks are coated in a mist of distortion. Take the title cut, whose grand gestures are hemmed in by its crackly textures. At this point, lo-fi's signature stamp feels gimmicky.
What saves Time Spent Away From U is Jakobsson's talent as a producer. With the exception of "U Hold Me Without Touch," which overdoes it on the weepy piano chords, the tracks are warm and robust, with easy-to-love melodies and nimble vocal science. The programming is smart and restless, full of constant tiny shifts that keep the mood sparky. Take the way the percussion darts beneath the yearning vocal on the lovely "Come Thru For U." Or the sudden dips in tension on "How U Make Me Feel," the album's cleanest banger. (The digital version leaves off some of the collection's strongest tracks, like the garage-y "Another Way Back" or the tuneful "Bring U Back.")
If you're a seasoned house music fan, it's unlikely you'll find new ideas or perspectives on Time Spent Away From U. But what if you're not? Jakobsson himself has acknowledged lo-fi's role as a gateway into dance music, and his debut album, with its sunny catchiness, might prove the genre's biggest hit yet. (Thanks to tracks like "U," which has had more than 600,000 plays on YouTube since surfacing last year, it's surely its most high-profile.) The scene needs records like this. But it also needs artists of Jakobsson's calibre to continue looking forward. In that same interview with FACT, he said he wanted to make the DJ Seinfeld alias "a bit more curious, a bit stranger." Let's hope he sticks to that.
01. I Hope I Sleep Tonight
02. I Saw Her Kiss Him In Front Of Me And I Was Like Wtf?
03. Bring U Back
04. Too Late For U And M1
06. Time Spent Away From U
07. With My Luv
08. Another Way Back
09. It's Just My Luv
10. How U Make Me Feel
11. U Hold Me Without Touch
12. Come Thru For U