Impressive second album from the Night Slugs producer...
'Dream A Garden' cover art

These are interesting times.

'Classical Curves', the first album by Jam City (producer Jack Latham), was fixated on the excess of capitalism. A precise fusing of techno and post-whatever dubstep, it was chilly and remote and beautiful; the mechanistic funk of Kraftwerk and Drexciya, combined with the seediness of early industrial music. It was a world of jackhammer beats and noisy flashbulbs, glamour, sex, coke and cars. Clearly there was an attraction/repulsion thing going on there.

'Dream A Garden' is nothing like it. This is still angular, defiantly awkward music, but the diamond-hard production has been replaced with something woozier and stranger. The synths have warped and melted, the beats – when they're there at all – are muffled and subdued. Most startlingly, Latham sings. A lot.

Lead single 'Unhappy' is a fine example of this sea change. It's a three-minute love song gone wrong. Lyrically, it's open-hearted and accessible, but the production deliberately sabotages any chance of this being a break out pop hit by twisting it into something intriguingly strange. It comes directly after 'A Walk Down Chapel' which buries its vocals and melodies under layers of sonic grot. 'Today' is more direct, with Chic-style guitar licks mixed in with the shifting beats, while 'Proud' is like listening to the departing spirit of a soul singer as he passes into the netherworld.

It's an optimistic, romantic and frequently lovely record – a startling and deliberate contrast to its predecessor. Latham has described it in terms of protest music, which is perhaps stretching things a little, as most of the actual politics are confined to the press release. But perhaps that's the point. The garden in this dream is a place of respite from the frightening truths of our increasingly dystopian, poverty-stricken reality.

7/10

Words: Will Salmon

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