On the Halal Sol song ‘Lives In Future’, a looped vocal sample reminds us over and over: “We see our lives in futures past, but—” It’s the sort of thought-provoking (and sometimes fake-deep) one-liner in a club tune that ups the tension or aids in release, serving to cultivate the mood on the dance floor. At a time when much of the world is still at a standstill and, to many, a state of isolation, dance music and the very act of dancing itself both evoke the kind of potent nostalgia that makes us feel less alone – even if we’re not in a crowded club.
Dance music – particularly house – after all, fosters a familial feeling, where those who seek a reprieve from hard times find a sense of belonging: rhythm brings people together on the dance floor, harbouring a sense of safety and oftentimes, joy. This hinges on the relationship between the DJ and the crowd. Without a physical connection, how is dance music fully realised?
The Singaporean DJ-producer Halal Sol attempts to answer this question with his debut project, ‘Dijamin’, a collection of dance tracks that allows seasoned listeners to thrill to familiar sensations and offers casual listeners a decent primer to a wide array of electronic music: from techno to ambient soundscapes. In ‘Dijamin’, Halal Sol takes his primary limitation – the absence of people – as an opportunity to reorient the senses.
Instead of making a straightforward club record that meets the intensive demands of dancing, he focuses on details and hones in on elements – whether it’s a sound bite, a rapturous build, or a beat switch – that allow us to enjoy dance music differently but still as perceptually: through intent listening. As he told NME, “I focused on making the tracks simple with minimal layers to keep it raw and allow the listener to focus on each layer. Even the instruments and synths used are simple vanilla sounds embellished with simple effects. Each layer and bar of the track is deliberate, which I hope creates some emotional highs and lows to the track.”
‘Dijamin’’s emotional peaks and valleys are tied to how the music commands movement: the kinetic opener ‘Don’t Feel The Bass’ pounces right away with the familiar pattering and claps of ’80s electronica, then eases into a gentler, synth-heavy second half. Ravers have long lived for the drop, the way long builds create anticipation for euphoric payoff, but the quieter, more textured stabs in-between can offer more nuance: moments of vulnerability that allow the artist to intimately connect with the listener.
Halal Sol fleshes out a playful vision of Chicago house in ‘Hearing Deficit’ (which offers cheeky diva vocal work: “I have heard enough… to know that you’re the one”), focusing more on the sensual qualities of house music but in a manner that’s less intense, though still interactive. ‘Lives In Future’, with its skittering hi-hats and gurgling frequencies, oscillates between trance and acid house.
Darker Than Wax label co-founder Kaye’s rework of ‘Hearing Deficit’, one of the two remixes in ‘Dijamin’, adds a little spunk and playfulness to the original, with deeper and rounder bass lines and a slightly more frantic tempo. ‘Rotund’ is a quintessentially deep house track: the kind where you can sweat while remaining in one place. The complete reverse takes place in Bongomann’s remix (“re-rush”) of ‘Rushin’, a standout track which deflects the more pointed immediacy of the 2020 version with chic, lush layers.
Halal Sol’s ‘Dijamin’ is a welcome break in modern monotony, a dynamic project in more ways than one. It is sentimental and transportive, fulfilling the role of dance music: escaping these doldrums and reminding us that we’re still here, and still alive.
- Release date: May 28
- Record label: Darker Than Wax