DEATH by jj
Genre: Art Pop, Dream Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Truce”, “Anything”
Touted years ago by Paste magazine as one of “the greatest musical obscurities”, the releases of Swedish duo jj have always managed to attract a loyal critical following after early accolades bestowed upon them by the likes of Pitchfork. Proving themselves hard to define with their blend of the subdued atmosphere of dream pop, the spacious percussive elements of cloud rap, and the slow, heavy pulses of Balearic beat, jj is best known for their nearly copy-paste sampling of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” on “Ecstasy”, a cut off of their breakout LP, JJ N° 2.
Seemingly a precursor to witch house, and an obvious influence upon Yung Lean, jj contributes one of their most sparse and sleepy efforts yet with DEATH.
DEATH immediately starts off on an angelic foot with the opening chords of “Fuck It”. Although the first incantation of the titular phrase falls flat (the beat doesn’t possess enough grit to warrant such expletives), a synth that’s a hefty nod to witch house soon bubbles up, placing the proceedings somewhere between (the aforementioned) Yung Lean and Salem. “Fuck It” becomes infinitely more interesting as its made clear to the audience that there will be no conception of the “drop” that we’ve become accustomed to as listeners. Apart from the bare minimum of rhythmic backbone required to keep things slightly structured, the trap beats customary in anything even tangentially cloud rap are nowhere to be found. The same holds true for the remainder of the album; percussion is utilized to only the most sparing of degrees. This allows the song(s) to become even more haze-y and hypnotic than initially intimated. However, in the case of “Fuck It”, the listener is somewhat jolted out of their reverie by the incorporation of an electric guitar towards the end, whose organic tones don’t align in a cohesive fashion with the more alien aural landscape established up to this point.
“Truce” is similarly shifting and formless, picking up a bit of forward momentum with a 4/4 hand-clap section that’s a welcome change from the woozy hypnotics of its predecessor. “Anything” is both the best and most disappointing track on EP, as its simple, melancholic piano perfectly complements the effect-laden vocals that, with just a touch more manipulation, could have perfectly fit in on a Yung Lean release.
“Pills” is the longest track on the release, and unfortunately acts as the lowpoint. Another incongruous acoustic instrument billows up, and with a runtime of over five minutes, the listener finds themselves wishing that a more gripping rhythm would manifest itself and maintain interest. That being said, the latter half incorporates an effective transition into a more memorable synth line, and the piano outro is appropriately bittersweet. “En tyst minut” rounds out the proceedings, and obnoxiously consists of a minute of entire silence.
Although DEATH doesn’t quite manage to be memorable at the end of the day, the maturity its production exhibits in terms of subtlety is to be admired. Thankfully choosing to merely nod to the aesthetic predilections of internet-era “meme music” instead of fully indulging them, jj most likely won’t win any new fans with DEATH, but offer up enough new tricks to keep old fans intrigued.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend