BY CAROLINA CARMO//
Certain albums land in your life and just stick. Dijon’s debut Absolutely, a combination of R&B and soul blended beautifully with his raspy vocals, accomplishes just that. The music moves in deliberate but unexpected ways, never becoming dull and growing spontaneously cohesive. It’s a feeling that influences how the songs play out, emphasizing the project’s most jarring moments, like the piano in “Many Times,” the acoustic guitar mixed with yearnful screaming vocals in “Annie,” the simplicity of “Noah’s Highlight Reel” and how you can hear laughs and incoherent conversations in the background.
With its release, Dijon also put out a film of him and his collaborators performing specific songs from the album. Set in a room where the musicians are organized around a large table, the scenes grow increasingly messy as it moves from song to song. The film opens with a shot of Mike Gordon, co-writer and musician, leaning on a beige doorway, and playing the main guitar riff in “Big Mike’s.” The credits roll only after the take of this song – seven minutes in. I showed my roommate this scene and she was mesmerized by Dijon’s presence; not once during those seven minutes did she turn away from the screen. Dijon accomplishes a certain magnetism with this project that makes it impossible to let go of his music.
The take of “Scratching” that follows perfectly sets up the rest of the film’s chaos. Mid-song Dijon hits one of the cymbals and it completely topples over, before he and Mike hammer on the keys, making incoherent noise that falls beautifully within the craziness of the performance. The messiness is driven and meticulous, producing an incredible rush of adrenaline. By the end of the song the camera pushes back and the audience realizes that the room the musicians are in is a built set piece. This surreal breaking of the fourth wall perfectly showcases how inescapable the sound is, how alive it feels to be in that room making music.
The most memorable moment of the film comes later in the take of “Rodeo Clown.” Dijon is alone on set, moving around sluggishly and randomly, drunkenly smashing bottles of Modelo against the walls while singing some of the most melancholic words found in the album. It is an unfocused scene on a deserted set, darkly-lit in green and black, where his visual pain and yearning compliment his lyrics. It evokes the most dizzying effect of feeling like you are losing someone’s love: “I run to you, I run to you, I run to you / I love you, I love you, I–”
There are small moments that push the film into a realm beyond the performances. The interlude of the band casually marching to the national anthem; a moment where you see a photographer taking pictures on a point and shoot camera, which were then edited into the final cut of the film; an interaction between Dijon and Mike during “Annie” where they sing the lyric “change your mind” back and forth to each other in a dizzying spell; a point where Dijon exits the studio and runs into down the street and disappears around the corner and into a rich blue sky at dusk. The disorienting messiness of the film elevates the project to show the connections and special moments behind the making of the album. It emphasizes the chaotic and borderline hypnotic nature of the writing and the amount of trust the musicians have in and with each other. This isn’t just a live take or a polished feature film – it exists as a lineal middle ground where creativity and live performance meet.
Joan Didion once wrote that a “place belongs forever to whoever claims it the hardest, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image.” That is exactly what Dijon has done to the room in the film, to this period of time in my life, to that space in my conscience. Absolutely is grand, it is all encompassing, it invites you in and holds you there for as long as you allow it to dominate your thoughts.
Dijon is a master of channeling together streams of his own consciousness into his writing, making Absolutely a masterpiece of a debut. I grow enamored thinking about what could come next, but for now, I will stay fascinated by the album and the film, indulging in all their little things.
Find the Absolutely film on Dijon’s YouTube channel here.