Seams is the trading name of one Jami Welch, a Hampshire-born musician who now lives in Berlin, where he works for Soundcloud and creates electronic music. A pair of EPs – Tourist and Sleeper – picked up positive reviews last year; Quarters is his debut full-length album.
Quarters is – barring one Caribou-esque vocal sample on ClapOne – a wholly instrumental work built from a series of cross-hatching, synthesised riffs, ranging from the microscopic (as on the slow-burning Sitcom Apartment), to the pummelling (the jackhammer keyboards of Iceblerg). Accordingly, Quarters is most likely to be categorised as ‘dance’ music by iTunes, but it’s hard to imagine it blaring out of speakers in a club. This is the kind of dance music that’s better suited to the fleeting imagery of a train journey than it is to the sight of gurning clubbers.
Which isn’t to say Welch doesn’t have an intuitive grasp of rhythm. ClapOne eventually locks into a groove similar to that of Hot Chip’s Over And Over, while Constants features one of the most enduring dance music tropes: the breakdown. However, moments like these are more likely to illuminate a commute than prompt a festival crowd to “go off”.
Quarters finds Welch revelling in the album format; these nine tracks are a masterclass in sequencing. The opening of first track ClapOne pulls a trick similar to the intro to PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me: it begins quietly, with little more than an analogue hiss and some distant clattering, before an enormous bass drum kicks in, scaring the bejesus out of the unprepared listener. The middle stretch of Quarters – from the low-key Pockets (which recalls Aphex Twin at his least frightening) to the gradually building Hurry Guests – is tense and tightly-coiled. Release arrives in the form of the brisk, aerodynamic Rilo and closer TXL’s air-cushioned landing.
As with any instrumental music, the particular mood of Quarters can’t be read from its lyrical content; not that instrumental music can’t provoke a powerful emotional response, of course. Yet compared to, say, the disquietingly menacing work of Boards Of Canada, Quarters remains somewhat inscrutable. It’s more likely to elicit appreciation of Welch’s technical proficiency than floods of tears or the quickening of one’s pulse.
No matter: Quarters is such an inventive, smartly composed album that complaining about its lack of emotional clout feels like nitpicking rather than the exposure of a serious flaw. Seams might need to open out his music a little more next time round (perhaps through a collaboration) but, for now, Quarters is brim full of promise and an impressive work in its own right.