It’s called Destiny, but it could just as easily be titled Density. In multiple senses, the new album from DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ contains so much music. There is the plunderphonics of it all, the art of building songs out of samples from umpteen existing tracks, which results in a kind of digital maximalism that will be familiar to anyone who grew up on Girl Talk records or even Paul’s Boutique. But there’s also the functional reality of a 41-song tracklist that keeps going for hours and hours, carrying on so long that it must be spread across three cassettes (yes, cassettes) for the physical release.
She doesn’t always release music in such large chunks, but marathon albums are becoming normal for Sabrina, whose 2020 release Charmed (recently issued as a 6xLP box set) topped the three-hour mark and whose songs often sprawl to five minutes and beyond. Still, Destiny is gargantuan even by this artist’s standards. As an exercise in active listening, the album’s scope is daunting, putting an extreme spin on the trope of a record you can get lost in. The music is engaging enough to reward a close read, but it seems designed to work best as a backdrop for some other activity, whether that means lighting up a party or carrying you through a night in front of a computer monitor. Think of it as Since I Left You for the “beats to study/relax to” era.
Sabrina’s music ventures all over the stylistic map, from house and techno to more song-oriented synth-pop and soft rock offerings. But there’s a consistent voice to it, an authorial sensibility that holds true regardless of the particulars, so that dance-floor heaters and chintzy power ballads exist in perfect harmony. The anonymous London producer mines pop culture from the 1980s to the early 2000s, pulling from high and low culture alike, blurring fragments of sound from across an entire elder millennial childhood into a dreamy revision of VH1-era gloss. It’s the same nostalgic sweet spot hammered by the 1975, who recruited Sabrina as a co-writer for last year’s infinite groove “Happiness” after recognizing flashes of her influence in the track.
The two artists share a compulsion for genre-jumping and a taste for sax-blasted cheese. Upon hearing Sabrina’s album, my mind went to the 1975 even before I realized they’d worked together last year. Yet the polarizing persona that drives some people away from Matty Healy and friends is not a factor on Destiny. By hiding her identity behind an 8-bit cartoon version of Sabrina Spellman — one more artifact snagged from the pop cultural junkyard — the creator naturally cedes center stage to her creation. Not that jacking her name and avatar from a ’90s sitcom is an entirely neutral framing device: “I think the imagery is a great way to depict the type of abstract movie aesthetic I’m trying to convey,” she told Bandcamp in 2021, “a sort of warped TV movie that makes you cry in a way no mainstream movie would be able to.”
Destiny elicits that sensation far more often than you’d expect from a four-hour album. Filtering the colorful retro thrills of early Daft Punk through the more internet-addled sensibilities of lo-fi house stars like DJ Seinfeld, Sabrina ends up sounding like the Avalanches’ heir apparent, crafting fantastical mashups more likely to send you into your feelings than scrambling to spot the sample. Throughout Destiny, she taps into the dreamy, wistful feeling that made Since I Left You so intoxicating but reframes it for a painfully online moment when pop culture seems to be eating its tail. Capturing that sensation for any length of time is impressive; the miracle of Destiny is its ability to keep listeners under Sabrina’s spell for hours on end.
Destiny is out now on Bandcamp via Spells On The Telly. It’ll be on DSPs soon.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Fiddlehead’s Death Is Nothing To Us
• Anitta’s Funk Generation: A Favela Love Story
• Shamir’s Homo Anxietatem
• Stephen Steinbrink’s Disappearing Coin
• Rhiannon Giddens’ You’re The One
• Osees’ Intercepted Message
• Vines’ Birthday Party
• Horrendous’ Ontological Mysterium
• Jon Batiste’s World Music Radio
• Mick Jenkins’ The Patience
• Margaret Glaspy’s Echo The Diamond
• Spirit Adrift’s Ghost At The Gallows
• draag me’s lord of the shithouse
• Diners’ Domino
• Grace Potter’s Mother Road
• Hozier’s Unreal Unearth
• Gregory Alan Isakov’s Appaloosa Bones
• Genesis Owusu’s STRUGGLER
• Movements’ Ruckus!
• Mr. Greg & Cass McCombs’ Mr. Greg & Cass McCombs Sing And Play New Folk Songs For Children
• PJ Western’s Here I Go
• Oldsoul’s Education On Earth
• ¿Téo?’s Luna
• Karina Rykman’s Joyride
• RUSS’ SANTIAGO
• King Khan’s The Invaders score
• Sonic Youth’s Live In Brooklyn 2011
• Panda Bear & Sonic Boom’s Reset In Dub
• DeYarmond Edison’s Epoch box set
• Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense (Deluxe Reissue)
• Stewart Copeland & Ricky Kej’s Police Beyond Borders
• cumgirl8’s phantasea pharm EP
• Minor Conflict’s Bright Lights, Dead City EP