In his previous incarnation, Jio Nadal - also known as producer J. Albert - felt like an artist restrained by the conventions of his chosen musical genre. When listening to the music released under his original moniker, you sense a musician with more to offer than the often-restrictive confines of house and techno. As good as his early singles are, his latest project 'TFW' begins to really show the extent of his potential.
The name-change to Jio reflects the New Yorker's desire to create a project that is vastly more introspective than any of his previous output. While there is definitely still a house and techno aesthetic to this project, Jio tones these elements back in favour of incorporating a plethora of other influences.
This sonic diversity is all the more impressive considering 'TFW' is only nine tracks long, and on opener 'How Many X's' we begin to see the tapestry of inspirations that Nadal attempts to bring together. Ethereal vocals perfectly combine with a lo-fi beat to create a soundscape that becomes a template for the rest of the project.
The missteps on the record are when Jio strays too far from this sound and over-stretches, either his song writing or singing ability. This is perhaps most evident on 'Life After Love', which from the title onwards is a clichéd mess. The vocals are clearly a struggle, the production is uninteresting and the subject matter has been covered better many, many times.
Thankfully, this is perhaps the only significant dip in quality on the project. The album's artistic high point comes on the hypnotically nocturnal 'Circular Thinking Part 2', with Jio nailing the sonic aesthetic that the rest of 'TFW' has been building towards. The ambient and swirling production combined with Jio finding a perfect vocal pocket results in a track that feels like it accurately captures the artist's post-breakup loneliness.
At moments like this, 'TFW' really feels like it is on the verge of something special. The issue with this project is that is doesn't quite push on to be the incredible project it threatens to be. The most exciting part of Jio's album is that it showcases an enormous amount of potential, which if focused correctly could culminate in some incredible music further down the line.
Occasional misstep or not, Nadal should be applauded for his willingness to push his own boundaries, while completely shifting and merging musical styles. If this is the evolution from his previous work - then we can't wait to see where Jio goes next.
Words: Will Rosebury
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