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Jayda G – Significant Changes

The latest offering from Jayda G is unapologetic disco house with a difference. It’s led by its catchy rhythms, but thought and sonic experimentation is leant to an underlying ecological concept. Unfortunately, the album as a whole doesn’t benefit from its focus being pulled in two different directions. You will be listening to a smooth, feel-good party groove before later hearing excerpts of a speech about the plights of whales. Obviously being upbeat and being ecologically aware aren’t mutually exclusive, they just don’t seem to gel all that well in this case.

There are some genuinely interesting and appealing moments on Significant Changes, but the album gets off to a rocky start with “Unifying the Center (Abstract)”. From the initial massive kick drum impact, you would at first expect to be in for a heavy drum and bass track. Instead, the opener is more like listening to someone doodling on a drum machine. The track is brief and there’s injections of airy vocal samples but it doesn’t really offer anything to sink your teeth into.

“Renewal (Hyla Mix)” is far more indicative of the rest of the album than its predecessor. This time the beats are cohesive and backed by mellow keyboard chords. The song is far more ‘house’ than it is disco but the vocalisations are much closer to the mark here than some other parts of the album.

While “Renewal” has minimal but fitting vocals, “Stanley’s Get Down (No Parking on the DF)” has a definite weakness in that same department. The track has plenty of groove, the bass is spot on, but the constant repeating of the line “I see you with your phone, looking at Instagram” and other dancefloor related announcements get old pretty fast. It doesn’t help that these lines seem to be slightly pitch shifted or treated and there’s a few instances of clearly forced laughs or hoots that can be jarring. The track takes influence from the funk scene of the 70s but it probably would have benefited from being a straight instrumental.

“Leave Room 2 Breathe” (featuring Alexa Dash) is a step back in the right direction with its much stronger, even soulful vocals. At seven minutes, the song is longer than it needs to be but that’s really its only weakness. The driving rhythm and tempo make it hard not to at least tap your foot along to, almost like a house reinterpretation of Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits”.

“Orca’s Reprise” is a surprising left turn for the album. The track steps out of the dance arena and into atmospheric instrumental. The disco grooves are replaced with poignant electric piano and even whale calls. All in all, it’s an emotional highlight of the album, it’s Bowie’s “Moss Garden” but via Angelo Badalamenti instead of Brian Eno.

The whale themes continue in the piano dominated “Missy Knows What’s Up”. The song maintains the upbeat dance floor vibe in more or less the same way as the rest of the album which is curious given the audio excerpts present. Spoken word in upbeat songs always leads to mixed results, especially when it’s a concerned conversation about whale living conditions over a buoyant dance track.

“Sunshine in the Valley” (featuring Alexa Dash) has a strong partially slapped bassline and keyboard accompaniment but its over-reliance on airy vocalisations are its downfall. They’re similar to the earlier “Renewal” but not mixed as well this time around. Instead of perfectly slotting in and complimenting the song, they dominate most of the arrangement.

“Move to the Front (Disco Mix)” is easily the strongest of the ‘conventional’ tracks. It takes all the usual elements of the rest of the album but presents them in a more retro sensibility. The track comes of as more of a Donna Summer than a 90s Madonna like a lot of the rest of the album. Vocally the song has similar failings to “Stanley’s Get Down” but it’s hard not to be drawn in by the subtle strings, walking bassline and frenetic tambourine work. There isn’t much variation over the five minutes but it’s telling of the quality when you barely notice.

“Conclusion” is the aptly named closer of the album and fades from the end of “Move to the Front” before transitioning to a tone similar to “Orcas’s Reprise”. It’s a quiet, delicate signal that the party is over and it’s time for home. The usage of strings and synth pads is fitting and the piece is under three minutes, but it could have made for a more poignant ending a minute earlier on the solitary piano section.

Significant Changes is a mixed bag, but for the most part it’s highly listenable. Overall it’s probably the production side that lets down the album; the mixing can be off at times and the instrumentation occasionally sounds like someone had just been tinkering with the default plugins in Pro Tools. There’s plenty of experimentation but that doesn’t mean it feels totally haphazard. You can tell the album is clearly a passion project, it’s just unfortunate that several of the tracks don’t quite hit their mark.