"One must make use of freedom; only freedom of choice can allow one to escape 'nausea'." This is a fundamental principle of Existentialism as laid down by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. It's also a principle guiding Callum Ward aka drkmnd, a thought-provoking low-fidelity producer from the United Kingdom. Callum's creativity is not completely bound up in hip-hop - he bends the beats toward electronic and ambient poles - but the traditional lo-fi aesthetic is the axis around which his music turns.
His moniker hints at his vibe. Drkmnd music is a low-slung, sepia-toned, intellectual excursion. Less than a year's worth of tunes are available on his channels. Yet the progression of his skill and ability to communicate is tremendous when traced from his first release to his most recent, Nausea, which dropped April 30 on vinyl through United Common Records. Nausea runs the gambit from old school bumps and fuzzy drugscapes to dream marches that trace the edges of indie rock and downtempo electronica. He flexes impressively diverse writing here, including a bent collaboration with Lo-Fi Sundays favorite Senoy.
His less recent works include the stoic full-length album Contemplations and the imaginative beat tape Absurdism. This tape is diverse within the lo-fi spectrum, too, exemplified by a ambient, four-on-the-floor, trance-inducing tune on the back half of the tape. The only sample I recognize across his entire catalog appears in his cut "new flwrs". It's the flute from "Cautari" by Paul Weiner, the same snip heard in the Nujabes' classic "Spiral". This speaks either to Callum's ability to dig deep into the crates or to my ignorance, or perhaps both. Drkmnd's pensive compositions can be heard on the recent Seasonal Sounds // Spring compilation from the Dutch imprint Dust Collectors, as well as Futures Vol. 4 and 5 from Calgary's Inner Ocean Records.
Beneath the Bandcamp tracklist for Nausea is a quote; "Being an artist can be overwhelming, simply because of the sheer volume of creative possibilities that exist in the universe." The creative possibilities are voluminous, surely, and perhaps they overwhelm Callum himself at times. But if so, he's taking the heat off the rest of us. For sitting back with his music, amidst smoke wisps and wandering thoughts, "overwhelmed" is the very last state we find ourselves in.