Electronic dance

Mall Grab: review of the album What I breathe

Here and throughout the album, Alexander’s synths are the most compelling aspect of his music, telegraphing outsized emotions with a silver hit of the waveform. But his drums are missing; too often his lineup seems formulaic, a way of filling in the empty space in the mix. In “Patience,” regular hi-hats bring out the subtlety of Nia Archives’ trip-hop vocals. In hardstyle-influenced “Metaphysical,” skinned hi-hats and Amen breaks vie for attention with over-the-top bass and a screaming vocal sample that’s looped until nauseous, as so many of his samples are. vocals. Rather than being extremely heavy, it simply feels weighted down.

Alexander has describe what i breathe like a love letter to the dance-music heritage of London, where he has lived for seven years. But beyond a handful of jungle breaks and a joint feature by grime MCs D Double E and Novelist, nothing here feels intrinsic to the British club’s history. To genuflect at what Simon Reynolds called the “hardcore continuum” is practically de rigueur in some corners of British-inspired dance music these days; what i breathe says nothing new about the tradition that ranges from the discovery of acid house in the UK to hardcore breakbeat, jungle, dubstep and grime. Alexandre simply gathers these sounds around him, badges of loyalty to his adopted city.

There is another singer featured on the album: Alexander himself. He brings meowing falsetto to “Without the Sun,” a bittersweet British bass/house hybrid that vaguely resembles Larry Heard and Mr. White’s “The Sun Can’t Compare”; merging the atmospheres of the Cure’s To wish with flimsy grime production, the closing “Lost in Harajuku” is more unexpected, but Alexander’s understated monotonous tone seems reluctant to take center stage, and though the lyrics are hard to make out, the glow of lost in translation-like disorientation sneaking through doesn’t elicit much sympathy. Taking a feature on his own album comes across as a kind of rhetorical gimmick, a suggestion that this, at least, is a glimpse of Jordon Alexander at his most personal. The problem is that he is not a sufficiently convincing presence to defend himself. Seven years into a career spent turning familiar references into crowd-pleasing forms, it’s still unclear who Alexander really is, beyond the sum of his influences.

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Mall: what I breathe