Review of Broken Knowz Album by Jay Daniel

It takes some front to refer to the Detroit house scene dismissively as "Kinda wack", especially when well, you're an on-the-rise house DJ from.. Detroit. Such is the reputation that Jay Daniel has built up over the last five years both there and more broadly across the movement itself, his 2013 comments are rarely, if ever, brought up in conversation these days.

Jay Daniel Broken Knowz Album

This right to self criticism clearly comes with the turf, that area being a locale mythologised as the birthplace of much of America's twentieth century electronic music, but also through to a lesser extent Daniel's birthright, as mum Naomi sung on the Carl Craig produced, Planet E released 90's classics Stars and Feel The Fire. If his assessment was correct back then however, Broken Knowz is a token both of his affection and sincerity in putting things back in line: whilst rooted in the underground's meticulously highbrow search for curated perfection, it's default setting is also warm and highly danceable, just being what it is for itself.

It helps of course when your début record comes out on Theo Parrish's Sound Signature label, but a little surprisingly Daniel then set up his own imprint Watusi High in 2015 and released a brace of tracks as the School Dance EP shortly afterwards. Independent streak aside, it could still be said though that the wait for Broken Knowz has been unreasonably long, one perhaps engendered by what he's described as a new approach to production in eschewing his strictly machine based approach for something a little...different.

It's probably worth making you aware at this point that Daniel has in the past had little time for reviews of his work, so we'll whisper it quietly: opener Last Of The Dogons is evidently an experiment in odd, morphed bell sounds over a stubborn mechanical break, whilst the running loop and funked up cowbells of Niiko are equally the sound of an artist apparently yanking someone's chain for the sheer hell of it. He can start reading again now though, because the rest of Broken Knowz is close to perfect.

It's serious business too sometimes: 1001 Nights smatters Herbie Hancock's jazz years over an insistent Latin hi-hat, Paradise of Valley's lo-fi techno feels like a star homework project for gnostic beginners and Shake It Down recalls the go anywhere DIY lunacy of the legendary fellow-Troiter outfit Drexciya.

For a man with such a range of textures falling from the inside of his mind - and a reputation as someone who is as passionate about the process as the outcome - Broken Knowz finest moments are surprisingly straightforward.  On both Knowledge of Selfie (Terrible punning aside) and closer Yemaya the mood is relaxed and forgiving, each picking out a bygone playfulness that crosses and re-crosses the boundaries between club, car and couch. Superior without being elitist, the latter also showcases the drumming skills Taylor's been perfecting since his early teens in the form of a mischievously tight break that's eventually usurped by a hazy, cosmic set of jazzy synth riffs from just this side of kaftan.

Almost too cool to acknowledge it's cool, this is grit in the oyster music that ignores all the contrivances which make so many of its contemporaries weaker by the pound. Whether its creator wants to acknowledge what the critics think of it or not, Broken Knowz confirms Jay Daniel as a pioneer more than capable of being in the vanguard of his home city's long overdue renaissance.

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