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Jacob Collier's Djesse Vol. 4 - The Glorious Finale

Photo available via Flickr (Under License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Jacob Collier is a London based, multi-grammy award winning composer, who has earned the title “the colourful Mozart of Gen Z” from  the New York Times with good reason.

 Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the man’s musical ability, which he has been developing under the watchful eye of Quincy Jones for the last decade. In his typical funky fashion, the 4th and final instalment of the Djesse Series, Djesse Vol. 4, was released to the world on a leap day.

 It boasts an impressive range of collaborators, musical styles, and more than 20 different languages, blended into a triumphant conclusion to a project started way back in 2018. This is a reasonably substantial album at 16 songs long, but I’ll try and cover as many in as much detail as I can.

The first single from this album, released way back in 2022, is a collaboration with Lizzy McAlpine and John Mayer. ‘Never Gonna be Alone’ is a warm, meditative song, with rich vocals and a very tasteful guitar solo from Mayer. The animated lyric video fits the style of the song well, offering a calm contrast to the excitement and energy found in the rest of this album. Lizzy McAlpine’s breathy vocals, accompanied by soft strings and tinkling percussion, blend well into Jacob’s vocal harmonies. 

My two personal favourite singles are the electrifying ‘WELLLL’ and the mellow ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. ‘WELLLL’ is a rock number, with powerful guitar and a punchy vocal line marking another stylistic variation that meshes into a cross-genre album. As a fan of the original Simon and Garfunkel song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ includes impressive vocal performances from Yebba (deliberately uncredited), John Legend and Tori Kelly, who all add spectacular riffs elaborating on the original tune. 

This song has some similarities with Jacob’s famous arrangement of ‘Moon River’, but transcends to new levels of vocality in collaboration with three ridiculously talented singers. 

Another one of my standout tracks is ‘She Put Sunshine’, combining a George Harrison Indian experimental element with reverberating dance pop synths. 

A driving ticking rhythm with extra vocal ad libs add to an infectious lyrical performance from Collier. The pre-chorus has the most obvious use of vocal distortion, similar to ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ by The Beatles. Collier also employs a thicker British accent while singing than in previous albums; a characterful change. Overall, not a combination I was expecting. With huge spread vocal harmonies and a joyous pop energy, Jacob makes this song characteristically his own. 

Adding clever musical moments to his music is one of Jacob Collier’s specialities. One I noticed was in his song ‘Box of Stars Pt. 2’ - there’s a direct quotation of the arpeggiated violin riff from his song ‘With The Love In My Heart’ from Djesse Vol. 2. This song is full of musical quotations, mostly (from what I could hear) from Djesse Vol. 4, making it feel very full circle and a good choice of penultimate track. 

The return of an orchestral sound is reminiscent of Djesse Vol. 1, which is played in both albums by the Metropole Orkest, conducted by Suzie Collier. This song is one of the more experimental ones, with a huge slow-down in the middle, almost coming to a complete stop, before gradually speeding up again. There’s so many small elements in this 6 minute long song - it’s like a game trying to listen out for all of them. 

It is important to talk about some of the traditionally non-Western musical sounds used in Djesse Vol. 4, particularly in songs like ‘A Rock Somewhere’. 

It combines a fusion of Indian classical music with jazz and pop styles. Winding raga riffs are expertly played by Anoushka Shankar, and blindingly accurate vocal melodies are constructed by Varijashree Venugopal. Jacob Collier talks about combining many different musical styles across his albums, including Brazilian samba, Moroccan gnawa music, African, Portuguese and Cuban-inspired grooves, folk, R&B, dance, and pop. Truly, nothing is off the menu when it comes to what Jacob Collier will draw inspiration from musically. 

In conclusion, Djesse Vol. 4 has a real refinement. There is a noticeable vocal maturity, and Jacob has honed his songwriting craft over the last few years, whilst collaborating with some of the most ridiculously talented musicians from across the world. 

It is a rich listening experience, combining a lot of Jacob’s previous work into a grand culmination. Djesse Vol. 4 won’t be everyone’s favourite: I’ve heard Jacob’s music described as “too much”’, and for some people, stylistically, this won’t be for them. Then again, you are listening to a genius on a roll. You’ve got to buckle up for the ride. 

Jacob isn’t compromising any of his artistic vision, hence why he’s respected by so many high profile artists across the world. There’s bound to be a song for everyone to at least appreciate, if not enjoy. This album is a testament to the unifying force of music across cultures, styles and people, with the human voice as the sonic centre of the Djesse world.

Edited by Lucy Blackmur, Music Editor