6 May 2016

RJD2: "Dame Fortune"

Refusing to conform, RJD2 explores a vast catalogue of musical history in an effort that delivers almost as much as it promises
RJD2 is a household name to many. With a lengthy career behind him, he continues to release new music to this day, the ever-evolving chameleon that he is. On his tenth full length album, Dame Fortune, the American producer has again moved in a new direction - A direction that was foreshadowed by the soulful compositions found on his last album, the collaboratory hip hop-soul album with Philadelphia rapper STS from 2015. On Dame Fortune RJD2 keeps to his soulful new angle, but not without venturing into a great many other fields.

In the wake of the recent resurgence in popularity for 80s synth music, the hayday of computerised music has in some aspects had a seeming influence on RJD2's music, evident right from the get go with Dame Fortune's intro, and later with the eerie droning organ-driven Your Nostalgic Heart and Lung. But in many ways, the musician's tenth album is his most ambivalent to date, a constantly changing entity of various currents and vibes. It lacks the concise nature of his more classic albums like Deadringer or More Is Than Isn't, but is in itself a charming journey through computerised small town idyll with gentle string ambience, soulful café-pop pieces, electronic funkomatics and menacing abstractions.

"The prominent role of soul music on this album lends to it a distinctly authentic and analog sound."

A myriad of collaborations with a variety of vocalists brings Dame Fortune a track-by-track diversity in feel and style that outdoes many contemporaries, but at the cost of consistency. The prominent role of soul music on this album lends to it a distinctly authentic and analog sound. The Roaming Hoard plays like a psychedelic afrobeat piece from the record archives of The Budos Band and Antibalas, while the Jordan Brown collaboration Peace of What is more radio pop material. Saboteur stands out as a percussive ballad, while Up in the Clouds - a collaboration with longtime partner Blueprint - is a rhytmic period piece referencing RJD2's roots as a hip hop producer.

On an overall basis Dame Fortune feels a bit schizophrenic, but is a possible source of many great singles. The lack of a cohesive theme or style makes the release in question more of a collection of songs rather than a proper album, and while the individual tracks are all great productions in their own right, most of them feel very independent of each other. RJD2 certainly hasn't lost his playful nature or his talent for producing phenomenal, era-transcending pieces, but Dame Fortune is a classic example of an album that doesn't benefit from being listened through in one session.


Released in 2016 by RJ's Electrical Connections


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