For me personally, I am no video game lover, I’ve played the odd Mario kart, but my fierce competitiveness and inability to handle a remote do not bode well together in this scenario.
So, when I heard about Jelee’s album being influenced by video games, I didn’t think much about it. I’ve heard many tracks that sound like they should be in video games, and in all honesty that is what I was expecting from this album. But it’s the opposite. It sounds like there should be a video game built just for this album alone.
Jelee (pronounced yel-e) is an Amsterdam-born and raised, self-taught producer. His love for music started with listening to and collecting CDs as a teenager. Being influenced by the likes of Brainfeeder and J Dilla, at 18 he started making experimental hip-hop beats on Ableton.
Now Jelee is doing what all artists try and do, creating something extremely personal and sharing through an accessible format.
Throughout the 13 tracks you’re taken on a journey. With some, you feel like you’ve got a power-up, with others you feel like you're getting bashed by a Bowser. The whole album is a story with each track blending into another effortlessly. Different levels have different themes. Collaborators such as Guido Hoek, Erosi and Jerrau each give their own twist to the tracks. We’re taken on an ever-changing path, moving towards ‘The Final Destination'.
Because of the fact that the album acts as a whole story, it's hard for Jelee to pick tracks to be released separately. You're dropped into the middle of a story with no idea of how you got there. But in order to give people a taste, Jelee has released BANGBANG - a more intense track and now the second single off the album - Oasis, for a more calming experience.
Having started making the album 5 years ago, Jelee's already sneaked pieces of Oasis into radio shows, such as a Steppin Radio Show at Lovelee back in 2021, or this one at Melkweg last year (timestamp 47:20).
Radio Melkweg: Jerrau (Previously known as Jerrausama) & Jelee: Streamed live on March 12th 2021
The track features fellow Steppin' member Mo Wrights. On a short trip to Mo's studio, the two started jamming and created not one, but two tracks featured on the album, the other being 'Aquifer', (the Rainbow Road of the album in my opinion).
Same like the love of music, Mo also shares Jelee's love for video games, made evident during my talk with them about the album. Unprovoked, both of them started explaining the rules of 'Tales of Symphonia' to me. When asked if they had ever played against each other, they said no, which then led to Timo suggesting a Steppin' games night... something to come maybe...
As explained, it is important for each track to know what position you’re in. Like, "did I just level up or lose a life?"
‘Devour The Sun’, the track before 'Oasis', creates the image of this Egyptian-esque desert-like feel, and sets the story for 'Oasis'. Starting out more fierce, and ending slowly, we feel like we are entering a restful round with Oasis. Starting with a dream-like chime, it’s easily a continuation of the last track, only with more of an airy, muted feel to it. It's as if we are stuck in some kind of story within a story. The constant momentum, which runs through the whole album, continues, but the pace is interrupted in Oasis with interludes of softer mixes, so we can take this track as recovery period.
A collaborative effort from ‘Start’ to finish, Jelee explains the importance of keeping this album close to home. As his first big release, he wants to keep it 'in the family' per-se. Being able to work with the talented people around him is a blessing, but he also wants to give his friends opportunities to release music, hoping to inspire them.
The collaborative spirit is continued throughout every aspect of the album. For the album artwork, Jelee asked Charayda Andeloe to paint the cover and a long-time friend of 5 years, Wessel de Kooker, for the single artwork. For the labels, he asked Lucas Benjamin of Wicked Wax and Danny Veekens of Rucksack Records to collaboratively release this album. Down to every last drop, this album has been graced by the hands of the Dutch music scene. Loyal to the soil in its core.
Growing up on the humble tones of Michael Jackson and Pokemon soundtracks, making an album influenced by video games was a collision of his two loves. But it's not simply just about video games, Jelee states:
"It's the art of storytelling and the different ways you can take people on a journey through instrumental means which is important to this album."
Without further ado, please enjoy the exclusive premiere of the single that is yet to be released.
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