CD: 4am Plum Mood
For DJ/beatmaker/remixer DJ Drez, 20 years of zig-zagging between gigs in North America and Asia has created a confluence of on-stage euphoria, the dazzling lights and nonstop energy of a large metropolis, and pre-dawn quietude — all experienced through the lens of sensory-altering, jet-lagged sleep deprivation. This “sharp but muted” feeling that should be familiar to most who find themselves up and about in the wee hours of the morning is what Drez refers to as “plum mood,” and serves as the theme for his newest work, 4am: Plum Mood (Feb. 26, Black Swan Sounds).
“Plum mood” was first inspired by the purple hue shed by the black light Drez kept in his bedroom/studio in the mid-90s. Whether making love or making music, he noted that the light’s hue had a specific “intelligence,” a particular vibrational influence on the senses.
Drez felt the same effect when emerging from a big city club in the pre-dawn hours. “There’s something about a city that’s mostly quiet but with all these lights going on. It creates interesting vibrations,” says the artist. It’s also where the seeds of his long-time dedication to yoga and spiritual practice were sown. “Early on, one of my first influences, of really taking mental note that I wanted to start a mind-body discipline like yoga or tai chi, was on my trips to Japan and Taiwan where I’m coming home at 4am, 5am. I’d see people coming out at that time, taking walks, practicing tai chi in the parks…and the lighting of the city, and the moon.” For Drez, this ecstatic perception of the world in sharp, ultra-clarity, viewed in the murky pre-dawn light, instigates a natural high.
This semi-somnabulant buzz inspired Drez to launch a series of mixes he describes as “very vibrational, meditational, sexy.” Unrolling a soundscape drawing from his late-night experiences, these Plum Mood mixes, released in the mid-90s, defined “downtempo” well before the term had even been coined. “Back then, I just called it ‘vibe music,’” Drez recalls.
A recent upswing in travels due to increasing demand for his particular brand of hip-hop-meets-yoga sound inspired Drez to take a detour from his signature Jahta Beat series of recordings and re-explore those downtempo vibes. The ethereal, purple-lit glow of 4am: Plum Mood – semi-ambient with traces of beats and the soft touch of Domonic Dean Breaux on flutes, sax and harmonica — conjures the gauzy sensation of a late night lovemaking session, or early-hours walks through the near-empty but brightly-lit streets of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as his native Los Angeles. In fact, one of the album’s highlights is the track “Lamazing,” a tribute and love poem to LA, penned and sung by the warmly soulful, jazz-inspired Marti Nikko, Drez’s wife.
DJ Drez is often referred to as the Sound Ambassador, but for 4am: Plum Mood he likens himself more to a “mind astronaut” – hence the album’s subtitle, “for AM exploration, sacred movement, touch and mind travel.” He compares the creative source – and effect – of this music to the experience of staring out the window on a long flight or road trip, allowing the mind to relax and journey afar to a place of stillness, “maybe a letting-go place. You’re looking at clouds or little villages or trees passing quickly, but the mind is doing something else. It’s like if you’re dancing at that time. To watch a dance floor at 4am is amazing, it’s beautiful. People let go. It’s where one experiences more of the non-physical self.”
Still a little hazy about the ethereal definition of “plum mood?” Perhaps Drez sums it up best this way: “Sharp-but-muted is Miles Davis on Kind of Blue…something I used to listen to in the middle of the night. With that black light on.”
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