To hit play on D33J’s long-awaited debut album is to tumble headlong into a rich sonic universe of captivating improbabilities. Where narcotic house music slow-pulses alongside deconstructed future R&B and lush ambient dreamscapes. Where an astoundingly 3-D depth of field somehow radiates with incredible intimacy. Where digital means of production are often usurped by guitar play, analog synth, field recording, or tape edit. Where experimentalism and accessibility aren’t the least bit mutually exclusive. Perhaps that’s why the taste-making Los Angeles producer and DJ named the project after a thing that doesn’t, shouldn’t, and couldn’t exist: Death Valley. We’d expect nothing less from D33J, who picks up plaudits whether he’s rocking a sweaty Boiler Room show with his Wedidit crewmates, producing blissed out rap tracks for Lil Yachty’s albums and mixtapes, or composing solo songs that instantly immerse us in an ever-shifting grid of odd rhythms and melodies. It’s all par for the course for someone who grew up in the hyper-cultural melting pot of L.A., plus attended the city’s esteemed (yet public) Hamilton High magnet school, where he not only met future tourmate and Death Valley Oasis collaborator Baths, but played in bands with the surf-punkers who’d found FIDLAR, and loaned his sweater to Odd Future’s Syd in biology that one time. His path to now has never not been strange and fascinating, with stops in San Francisco for a degree in audio-visual design, and Hamburg for a two-month residency crafting tech-powered interactive art installations, all while developing his inimitable sound. Two EPs – 2011’s Tide Songs, in time eventually remastered by Brainfeeder steady Mathewdavid, and 2013’s Gravel – plus a run of unpredictable mostly unauthorized R3MIX3S (Drake, Taylor Swift, Brandy, Sigur RÃ³s) heralded the arrival, four years later, of this fully realized work.
Death Valley Oasis contains no filler but there are standout moments: like Anticon label mate and Dirty Projectors alum Angel Deradoorian channelling her inner Destiny’s Child on the jittery “Spark”, or D33J taking a rare turn on the mic to wax druggily romantic on “Plateau,” or the eerie Burial-like gloom-bomb that is “Dead Sea,” or “Rot,” a teamup with Wedidit star Shlohmo (who also provides this album’s artwork) and DJ Khaled-approved singer Corbin (f.k.a. Spooky Black) that opens on acoustic strum and reinvents the quiet storm genre before closing with what sounds like death metal pounded out on an MPC. Death Valley Oasis isn’t just another entry in D33J’s book of “Emotional Dance Music,” as he once coined, it’s the definitive tome and a paragon of what can be accomplished when a blatant disregard for musical boundaries is matched with ace technical ability and endless tangible heart. This is one to get lost in – the desert and the slake.