Review: Jitwam - Honeycomb
No one seems to be rising up through the jazz and beats seen quicker than Jitwam. Born in India, raised in Australia, loosely based in New York but always on the move, the producer / singer / multi-instrumentalist has been making waves since being featured on Moodymann’s Dj Kicks in 2016. Since then the fascinating beatmaker has expanded his label – The Jazz Diaries – released his first solo album through NZ-Based Cosmic Compilations, and show the world that Jitwam is an artist that will not be pigeonholed into one genre. His first album – an unorthodox, conceptual compilation of beats that spanned styles and genres – was a wonderful collection of eclectic beats, mellow jazz pieces and droning, groovy basslines. In other words, it was something completely different.
Spending his early adulthood backpacking through Southeast Asia, Jitwam learnt to appreciate the simpler things in life by spending months in temples, volunteering at orphanages and relying on strangers to make ends meet. After relocating to London, he became obsessed with with finding things that are out of place – “super weird shit” on the radio, or that one dusty record that doesn’t belong in that pile. His search for the lesser known things led him to fall in love with Moodymann and J Dilla – two artists who are notorious for their dozens of beats, alternative cuts and unofficial records they have released throughout the years, and those two artists would go on to inspire his musical journey.
Released through Tartelet Records, HONEYCOMB feels a lot like a self-reflection of Jitwam’s journey and young adult life. The opening cut ‘busstop’ is accompanied by a music video documenting Jitwam’s latest visit to the capital of his birth country – Mumbai, that he becomes fascinated with. The film follows Jitwam as he loses himself in amongst the bustling Mumbai streets, coming across unusual sights and talking to interesting people, but eventually becoming overwhelmed by the constant unfamiliarity and business of the city.
That said, the record feels much like one of self-exploration as much as it is self-expression. HONEYCOMB’s variety of cuts cements Jitwam as more than an artist that will be confined to 12” singles and proves it through the jump in styles, tempos and grooves throughout the album’s 38-minute runtime. The album almost too liberally jumps from the rich, mouth watering beats of ‘Temptations’ to the Dilla-infused ‘Diamonds’ and the melancholy, acoustic ‘Hearts Don’t Lie’, a cut that sees the beatmaker draw inspiration everywhere from slow burning post punk to Angus Stone’s Dope Lemon project.
The album is a beautiful collection of ideas and abstract pieces that are all relatively short, never dragging on for longer than three and a half minutes. Yet each track is fleshed out and layered with so much attention to detail that each beat leaves you wishing it would go on for a little longer. One of the standout tracks on the second half of the album – ‘Trustt’ – is a prime example. It’s warm pads, stark bass and purposely lethargic drums play off Jitwam’s softly spoken voice, that echoes and reverberates back and forth creating a heartfelt, beautiful funk piece.
Refusing to allow the listener to feel sorrowful for too long, the following track ‘Opendoors’ is a cheerful, upbeat toe-tapper built around a strumming guitar and trumpet loop that will leave you humming the melody for days. Jitwam has described the record as ‘Diary Entries’ – pieces of music that hone in on the more mundane and sadder moments in life – using moments to convey songs brimming with love, melancholia and tranquillity. One of the most emotional tracks is the hidden cut in the album finisher ‘Aria’s Song’. A slow lullaby titled ‘Confessions’, the dreamy beat fuses the wonky synth lead with what sounds like birdsong, mixing natural and unnatural in a quiet juxtaposition that urges you to stare off into the distance and contemplate life, love and soul.
HONEYCOMB is unapologetically mellow, the perfect album to accompany you on a lovely, evening road trip, a rainy, winter morning or a smoke-filled afternoon. The cuts invigorate a sense of reflection as much as it does a desire for adventure, the only thing stopping you getting completely lost in the record is the sudden fade out or cut off, followed by an unapologetic change of beat. But, just like every beat driven album that has cemented itself as a legendary piece of work, Jitwam’s HONEYCOMB leaves you craving for more, and once finished, will leave you scrambling for that repeat button.