Escapism through music is vital, and this is what electronic duo Wajatta deliver with open arms in their follow-up to 2018’s ‘Casual High Technology’, transporting us to saturated, reverberating walls at Berghain in Berlin or London’s Printworks. The record could easily be placed somewhere in Detroit, New York, LA… in fact, just about anywhere in the world. Electronic music is universal, after all, and this has often been Wajatta’s biggest asset.
Reggie Watts, half of Wajatta, has previously displayed his knowledge for classic funk and rhythm and blues, often with an impressive eloquence. Likewise, other half John Tejada has continuously exhibited his gift for electronic music, whether it’s through his celebrated DJ sets or meticulous production on records such as ‘Parabolas’ and ‘Logic Memory Center’. Their new project ‘Don’t Let Get You Down’ takes influences from all over the globe, but primarily America; whether it’s house music’s Chicago-based beginnings, or the blood of Detroit which runs through techno’s veins. Among this, the many elements – ‘70s funk, pop, electro, soul, hip-hop, disco – can feel a little squeezed, creating a melange of genres. Some of these flourish, while others (sadly) somewhat nosedive.
The 11-track LP begins with ‘Renegades’. Watts’ vocals are used as an instrument on this track — something of a theme throughout the album, and he’s previously shown he knows his way around a loop pedal on NPR’s Tiny Desk — which is layered over numerous sounds and instruments. The opener builds plenty of tension, but offers little pay-off. This moves on to the minimalist ‘Little Man’, which takes electronic to the extreme but unfortunately feels rather underwhelming, robotic, and disconnected from the first track.
Regardless, the album has outstanding highlights. Watts shows off his impressive range in title track ‘Don’t Let Get You Down’, which the duo recently performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where Watts regularly serves as bandleader and announcer. ‘Depth Has A Focus’ — one of the shorter tracks on the album — is a darker cut and has a somewhat sinister feel, while ‘Realize’, reminiscent of Roy Ayers, lets the lyrics and vocals take the lead.
Though Watts’ range and vocals are impressive, the lyrics are often pushed to the sidelines. Watts’ is musically trained and well-known for his comedy-meets-music flair, something that feels left behind with the exception of ‘Marmite’, a song which takes inspiration from London’s rave scene and blends it with Americanisms. The track is both witty and fascinating to listen to.
In other moments, Tejada’s production flair takes centre stage, including track ‘Tonight’, which is reminiscent of some of Aphex Twin’s more ‘80s-inspired dance tracks, and ‘138’, which seemingly takes inspiration from classic Chicago house music, such as Mr Fingers’ ‘Can You Feel It’, with an upbeat, modern, twist.
‘Don’t Let Get You Down’ is a ride through the geneses of techno, house, and electronic music. Despite sometimes failing to embrace the originality that made its predecessors so popular, it has some exceptional moments.
Words: Megan Lily Large
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