Image: Ninja Tune
In a year when dance music was filled with more longing and ruminating on states of isolation than ever before, it’s interesting that Armand Jakobsson, or DJ Seinfeld, should release an album that finds him basking in the glow of contentment. After all, Seinfeld was largely at the forefront of establishing a specific formulation of house music that relied on lo-fi aesthetics and phrases of atmospherics to create a distinct concoction of bittersweet nostalgia. It was a formula that captured the hearts of audiences on the dancefloor across the world, leading to his rather unexpected ascent through the ranks of dance music. The singular moment at which this meteoric rise was put into motion can be traced back to 2016, when he nonchalantly uploaded the track U to SoundCloud only to be faced with an endless tsunami of streams a few hours later. His debut album, Time Spent Away From U, was very much the product of this overnight success and came at a time when Seinfeld himself was still mostly finding his feet as a producer. As such, that album took the blueprint set by U and ran with it to the nth degree, resulting in a record filled with that specific nostalgia which at times lapsed into wrought sentimentality. His sophomore effort Mirrors, out now via Ninja Tune, is a step toward a more grounded identity as a musician and a display of undeniable growth both in skill and sound.
Download ‘Mirrors’ here
For the most part, Mirrors is more colourful than DJ Seinfeld’s earlier outings. A big part of this is thanks to Seinfeld’s evolution beyond the elementary lo-fi techniques that define that earlier work, and his growth as a producer makes for music that is markedly more dextrous. He pulls inspiration from a pool of genres, with UK garage, funk and Italo all having a voice amidst his signature house aesthetic. The music is still steeped in emotion, but this time there’s far more nuance to the haze. This sees Seinfeld dance that particular line between euphoria and melancholia quite often, beginning on the opening track She Loves Me with Stella Explorer. Weaving Explorer’s broody vocals and doleful, chiming chords with the ecstatic rush of garage breaks makes for a track that seems to take its cue from the Burial playbook. Tell Me One More Time pulls a similar trick, but finds itself more vehemently committed to the garage aesthetic. Previously released single U Already Know is the most carefree in energy, a bright and bubbly Italo-tinged cut that finds its funk in wonky bass and synths. There’s a definite sense of balance to the emotion on Mirrors, and while Seinfeld’s usual feeling-conjuring devices are still present, they’re used with a sense of newfound mastery that actually makes them more potent in effect. For instance, the use of strings appears a few times across Mirrors, but they’re never exploited to the point of melodrama. Rather, they’re used to season the work that Seinfeld’s production is already doing in spades. They appear in the final act of Tell Me One More Time, swelling as the beat recedes to close the track on a sort of introspective haze. Similarly, they open I Feel Better before melting into a funky, boogie-leaning baseline only to swell out of the beat for a moment before ducking under again. I Feel Better in particular is a good case study for Mirrors as a whole. It demonstrates Seinfeld’s growth and newfound understanding of crafting emotive peaks and rallies by fusing the light with the dark, in this case a disco-boogie beat with swelling strings and a dreamy, nostalgic refrain.
Speaking on the album, Seinfeld claims, “I saw this quote from Cortázar recently, which says ‘You were always my mirror, to see myself I had to look at you,’ and it just made sense in relation to this album… If the first album was about getting past a breakup, this one is trying to understand who’s standing on the finish line. This album is my mirror.” The concept is clear in its execution, and it appears that Seinfeld spends less time trying to make you feel and more time just feeling for himself. Mirrors is a promising evolution for a producer who has always had the potential to craft powerful cuts of dance music, a honing of not only his skillset but his voice and musical identity. It’s the most distinct he’s sounded, even when he’s clearly referencing his peers. This album is the leap from overnight internet sensation to fully formed musician, feeling like DJ Seinfeld is finally finding the answers he’s always been looking for.
Listen to I Feel Better from Mirrors below.
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