Jason Drake’s fourth LP under the moniker Cassettes Won’t Listen arrives following a year of uncertainty. Shortly after the electro-pop of 2012’s Casa, the Brooklyn-bred producer took some time away from his CWL alias to focus on his Daylight Curfew Collective and the more experimental Dfalt side project. The period has only made the project stronger. CWL finds Drake finally sharing his diverse influences: ’90s electro, left-field hip-hop, and the kind of introspective storytelling usually reserved for weathered troubadours.
Just reading through the song titles — “This”, “Transmission”, “Has No Where To Go”; “Fire the Engines”, “We’ve Got So Much”, “To Explode” — a message begins to appear. The prelude in album opener “This” offers tones of similar isolation. After a minute, the slowly building wall of synths morphs into a blistering self-help mixtape: “We are the dopest and the raddest motherfuckers on this planet.” Recorded in Venice, Los Angeles, and New York, the music here was one of the few constants in Drake’s life as he found the reclusive setting to explore this new sonic revelry.
Tracks like “Fire the Engines” and “To Explode” find inspiration in the first U.S. electronic movement — a wave that included the big-beat antics of artists like the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and Fatboy Slim. Contrasting jungle basslines with stuttering synth waves, room opens up for Drake to slice distorted vocal ambiance through the prevailing masculinity. For those familiar with Fatboy Slim’s “Fucking in Heaven”, the launch of “To Venice” will sound all too familiar, but by the track’s midpoint the sample is little more than a minor crutch for Drake’s refreshing take on rave house.
Unlike today’s vast score of club-ready EDM, CWL is worthy of multiple intimate listens. Sure, “Goodbye to Downtown” is almost a guarantee to light up a party, but the lasting joy of CWL is in the joy of sorting through the layers of instrumental sampling.
Essential Tracks: “To Explode”, “To Venice”, and “Goodbye to Downtown”