Following Calvin Harris on Twitter is not always the most fruitful of enterprises. While you might expect his stream to be full of insightful music commentary, exciting cultural insights and exclusive previews of new material, it isn’t always so. Most of the time, he’s posting about the eggs he made for breakfast or the chicken he consumed after the show. Sometimes there’ll be a blurry shot of him and Fatboy Slim or him and Afrojack (some hint at the intense interconnectedness of the electronic music genre) but it is fairly rare for the Scot to come out with anything of real, intrinsically significant value. That changed Friday when, amidst the twitter, Calvin stated, “New Jakwob track come on son what the fuck.” Lack of punctuation and emoticons aside (so that one can’t actually be sure whether he was lauding or denouncing the track – however, methinks the former), the tweet sent me on a hunt for this ‘What the fuck’ track which ended with the attainment of this track. Jakwob’s ‘Fade’, ostensibly out in the Internets since the beginning of the year, might not have been the track Calvin was writing about but in any event, it is of such high quality that I thank him for the tip off anyway.
Going into the first listen of a track with that sort of recommendation is always going to bolster its chances of penetrating the noise to be really heard and accepted. I was listening to a podcast yesterday in which the two hosts were debating how long a new SxSW track should be listened to before it was consigned to either the ‘yup’ or ‘nope’ pile. If it is something that sounds eminently original, the answer seemed to be a few more seconds. The opening seconds of ‘Fade’ are not particularly promising in that respect. The mournful female vocals, provided by Jakwob collaborator and London local Maiday and the languid synth chords, lingering so that Maiday’s vocals take on a capella quality in those first few bars, is typical of the new era of house. The emotionality driving the opening of ‘Fade’ seems genuine but I was hesitant to accept it as such, keenly aware of how often I had been duped by such contrivances in the past. And yet, those breathless vocals, delivered in such a constant fashion that they resemble stream of consciousness, are never really accompanied by a massive drop or more prototypical womp-womp synths. For once, I thought, here is a song that actually means what it says.
In some respects, that lack of drop, that absence of womp-wompage disappoints at first. We have become so attuned to detecting these characteristic elements of the electro-house track that our ears almost skip over everything in the interim, seeking out with homing missile accuracy the fat bass that we are so accustomed to hearing. The Calvin Harris recommendation combined with a sense of mystery had me listening on past that and, in many ways, I think persistence is rewarded here. There is a notable change in tempo for the chorus which, although not traditionally brash, comes to be a welcomed change from the ponderous soul-searching of the opening verses. There is also a building section (from about 2’15” to 2’30” with vocals on loop) that recommends that a significant drop will follow it but it is replaced instead by a return to a reimagined chipmunk-esque rendition of the chorus. Jakwob, 23 for Hereford, England and a keen remixer of artists like Temper Trap, Ellie Goulding and Lily Allen in the past, clearly has an ear for nuance. ‘Fade’ strikes me as a modulated, minimalist version of the bangers that now jostle for space in the mainstream; it is modulated down a notch so that it is not instant gratification but long-term listening which is rewarded. I can’t get it out of my head. Between chicken and eggs, sometimes Calvin has it right.
Jakwob – Fade