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Jacques Greene - Mixtape Music Album Reviews

Jacques Greene - Mixtape Music Album Reviews
On a mixtape of exclusive material debuted on NTS Radio, the Toronto-based producer Jacques Greene trades distanced, soulful melancholy for full-on dancefloor hypnosis.

By the time Jacques Greene released Feel Infinite, his 2017 debut album, he’d mastered the art of headphone house: dance-lite takes on electro-R&B that are more about the club than for it. The Toronto-via-Montreal producer, born Philippe Aubin-Dionne, spent years perfecting his style by flipping chopped-up vocals from artists like Ciara and Tinashe into sweaty, syncopated heat. His bedroom tones and chart-music samples became a hit among Tumblr kids and techno elites. And then, right at the moment moody R&B began to sweep the mainstream, he changed gears.

Aubin-Dionne’s venturesome new mixtape trades distanced, soulful melancholy for full-on dancefloor hypnosis. The 48-minute stream of new material, debuted on NTS Radio and also available on YouTube, is far-out and shape-shifting, like wandering through the different rooms in a dark, labyrinthine nightclub. There are trance climaxes, purring techno intervals, ambient meditations, and spells of after-hours soul—sounds that seldom appear alongside each other, especially this elegantly. Unlike Feel Infinite’s song-focused format, this collection flows with the finesse of a sophisticated DJ set, with each new discovery a seamless surprise. If you thought his club days were behind him, think again.

The Jacques Greene alias was built on eclectic digital crate-digging and fearless sampling (Aubin-Dionne is known to bury YouTube covers and strangers’ phone recordings into the sheets of his tracks). Here, he expands on this affinity for imaginative vocal samples by chopping them into more abstract forms, and then folding them into dancier structures. While this isn’t a dramatic reinvention, it’s a distancing from the diva samples and pop re-cuts he became known for (his edits of Drake and Radiohead, though tasteful, feel beneath him). The only remix here is a spin on Rhye’s “Song for You,” where synth arpeggios and whirring drums make the serenade feel ominous and urgent. It’s the closest the producer gets to the kind of traditional vocal that played such a big part of his old sonic identity. But aside from Cadence Weapon’s hushed raps on “Night Service,” the soulful murmurs that appear here have been so heavily treated that they provide more texture than melody. Similarly, the nervous “DMs With God” begins as a cluster of clangy percussion and humming before a warm, grooving bassline lifts it into a dancefloor moment.

But all that texture! Between the breathy hiccups, squishy synths, sheets of white noise, and glacial echoes that hum like bowls in a Tibetan sound bath, there’s so much activity under the surface that the absence of easy-to-spot singers feels insignificant. Lose yourself the whinnying synth line of “Convex Mirror,” the mixtape’s brightest shining star, for a taste at what he can do with machine-driven melodies. With the frenetic energy of a spaceship rave, notes fly high and low like shooting stars while polyrhythmic percussion swirls beneath. It’s a delight to know that Aubin-Dionne’s next phase won’t sacrifice his knack for melodrama, but even more exciting to glimpse the new depths ahead.

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