It’s been a long wait for fans, but for Jauz it must have felt like a lifetime. His debut album The Wise and the Wicked is officially out today, featuring 23 tracks and a concept album that is as ambitious as it is impressive. Split into four chapters, generally alternation between “Wise” and “Wicked,” the album is best experienced as a whole – but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some damn good singles.
Jauz is presenting this project as a concept album, so I’m going to do my best to review it as such. Concept albums are no stranger to dance music, with Nero’s Between II Worlds, Deorro’s Good Evening, or Joker’s The Mainframe.
Concept album: an album featuring a cycle of songs expressing a particular theme or idea, as opposed to a simple collection of songs presented in an album format
The concept for Jauz’s album is explained in greater depth here, but for sake of brevity, it revolves around a sort of yin/yang dichotomy between wisdom and wickedness. The album begins with a prologue featuring Madsonik, followed up by collaborations with Tisoki and the already-released single “In The Zone” with Example.
In this dystopia – the wealth gap is about to reach its limit, which will leave only the ultra-rich minority, and the completely impoverished majority with no middle class whatsoever. From these two financial “castes,” two seperate alliances have formed, each hell-bent on using their own methods and techniques to inspire and empower the masses, and save the world in their own image.
The reference to “Babylon” is obvious; in Jewish tradition, Babylon symbolizes an oppressor against which righteous believers must struggle. In Christianity, Babylon symbolizes worldliness and evil. This, we can assume, is the Wicked. “In The Zone” must therefore be the Wise, though any obvious reference here is absent.
The first chapter of the album is The Wise, containing collaborations with Kiiara on “Diamonds,” as well as fabrice and Krewella on the remaining two.
The Wise inspire the masses by using intelligence and knowledge, and hope to find a cure for the ailing earth we live on with new groundbreaking technologies. They believe that only the truly adept should survive.
Song titles like “Diamonds” and “Soldier” convey this idea and bring it to life, along with the comparatively brighter instrumentation and poppier sound found in the first chapter.
The second chapter of the album is The Wicked, bringing back already-released singles “Motherfuckers” with Snails and “Acid or Techno,” which was premiered the day before the album. It also introduces the long-awaited ID “Get Widdit” with XX92 and Bru – C.
On the other side, The Wicked believe in full anarchism, using anger and aggressiveness to grow their ranks, and will eventually let the modern world burn itself to the ground so it can be rebuilt in a more sustainable way.
The tone of these songs is noticeably darker and more primal, more sinister, than the previous three Wise songs. Rather than poppy rhythms and bright tones, these songs employ a harsher synth palate and even get into acid techno territory, which is definitely new for Jauz.
The allusion to “anarchism” and “aggressiveness” in the world description found in these songs is easily apparent, and helps to build out the full scope of the world that Jauz is attempting to create.
From here, the album switches back to The Wise, with three entirely new tracks featuring Adventure Club & Kyle Pavone, Ducky, and Mike Waters.
But the plot thickens, The Wise celebrate music and creativity in ancient theaters, concert halls and in front of monuments. Their music aims to teach, and is more catered to the intelligent. While the music of the The Wicked is more primal, fueled by energy and anger. They share their sounds more publically, under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in the middle of the streets.
Once again, we return to a poppier sound, but something has also changed… these sounds, having now heard the Wicked, are presented in contrast and retaliation rather than as standalone pieces. They, in effect, have something to war against. The palate is brighter but the tone is more aggressive, so to speak.
“Frequency” is a perfect blend of Jauz and Adventure Club sounds, bringing that old school melodic dubstep sound to the forefront with a new blend of bass and distortion. The Ducky collaboration “Rave With Me” puts a new school twist on old school dubstep, blending brighter vocals with classic dark wubs. Finally, the last song in this chapter, “Fade” with Mike Waters, is one of the finest drum & bass tracks that I’ve heard this year. I could easily imagine hearing it released by Hospital Records and I wouldn’t be phased.
After this set of tracks, the Wise and the Wicked fade away to reveal a third sect… the United.
Their rivalry comes to an end, after chapters of the two castes opposing each other, a third party enters, The United, who are fueled by passion to create a better world. As outcasts of both parties, they have seen the errors both sides have made and also the strengths each side possesses. They have realized that this fight is not between two sides of humanity, but between all of humanity itself and everything that corrupted both sides into sinking our world deeper into darkness.
As a concept album, this is where The Wise and the Wicked loses me a bit. The final seven tracks are fairly disjointed as far as theme and sound go, with various tracks going harder or softer without any apparent reason. This could be boiled down to the melding of the Wise and Wicked, but I feel like there should have been some sort of pattern to it regardless. Fan favorites “Gassed Up” with DJ Snake and “Keep The Rave Alive” with Lazer Lazer Lazer can be found in this chapter, along with tracks like “On Fire” and “Back Again.”
My biggest complaint about this chapter is the ending: “Super Fly.” As a track, it’s good, there’s nothing wrong with it. But as an album finisher? It feels like more than a cliffhanger; it feels like someone took the final 20 minutes of a film and just snipped the reel.
Overall, Jauz’s debut album is wildly ambitious and, for the most part, hits all its targets. It flounders a bit from time to time, often getting caught up in its own world-building and losing sight of the grander picture, but there are plenty of powerful singles to take away from this collection if you’re not a fan of the concept.
Regardless, The Wise and the Wicked will surely go down as one of the top albums of 2018. Listen to it in its entirety below.
Photo via Rukes.com