J-Shadow is something of an enigma. Search online and you’ll discover very little about the man, but you will increasingly find his music. In just five short years, he’s become a sought-after name, with releases on Sneaker Social Club, Warehouse Rave and Bun The Grid, to name a few, and all while pushing the envelope of experimental, bass-heavy music. Less blurring the lines of genre, more mangling them in a high-impact collision, he can usually be found reworking the prime materials of grime and jungle, but isn’t afraid to tear chunks from hardcore, IDM, garage, techno and ambient.
As abstract as his tracks may seem at first glance, they’re founded on a deep musical knowledge and a desire to tell stories. Jason Kan was classically trained from a young age, gaining an understanding for “the science, the structure of music”. As he got older, the urge to learn and explore only grew. He’d figure out chords and melodies from music he heard day to day, and eventually joined a band, picking up guitar, bass and drums alongside the piano he already knew. A love for the furious energy of hardcore and metal eventually transferred itself to electronic music, in particular techy drum & bass and jungle.
“I had some affinity to really fast drum rhythms and rolling drum patterns,” says Kan. He cites the synth-heavy autonomic movement, outsider labels like Diffrent Music and purveyors of stomping halftime like Loxy, Overlook and Clarity as early interests. From there came a diversion into yet more curveball sounds, as the hybrid sonics of post-dubstep took hold. “[Artists were] pulling loads of genres and smashing them all together,” he continues. “I found that really fascinating, ‘cause it could take loads of different moulds.”
After working as a junior doctor for a bit, Kan decided to go freelance, affording him time to delve into music production. His earliest releases arrived in 2018 and were heavily indebted to the weightless sound pioneered by Mumdance and Logos — deconstructing club-ready grime and rebuilding it into angular soundscapes full of scattershot percussion, powerful bass and synths that cut like lasers.
“Mumdance is someone who’s been quite influential in terms of my stylistic approach,” says Kan, “and [he’s] directed me into exploring for myself what soundscapes I could build with my own ideas and concepts.”
It’s true that while the instrumental, experimental grime that took root around the early 2010s continues to show its influence in Kan’s work, as time has gone on, his sound has become more and more his own; his tracks transformed into bustling, futuristic worlds of hurried bleeps, bass and breaks that appease the current zeitgeist for cross-pollination without pandering to dancefloors or falling into a slump of regurgitated nostalgia.
“I guess my approach to production and songwriting is geared more towards headphone listening, bedroom listeners who just plug in — although I will draw for influences that have been more club-focused,” says Kan. “The direction I’ve been taking is more storytelling.”
Kan takes inspiration from art, literature and video, with a particular focus on science and the natural world. A keen explorer, his recent ‘Hyperfold’ EP for Italian label Beat Machine features a track called ‘Mist Over Sequoia’, inspired by the wilderness trails of the North American west coast. “But rather than the depiction of that journey that I took, I was trying to portray a journey in a metaphysical sense,” he explains, “like journeying through a different, altered-conscious state.”
The EP’s title track is inspired by a scientific theory about how “if you take a straight line, it’s a two-dimensional object, but if you fold it into a circle, it becomes a loop, and that’s a three-dimensional object, so that creates a continuum,” says Kan. In this way, the ‘Hyperfold’ EP forms a continuum of his previous Beat Machine release, 2019’s ‘The Astral Series’ EP, drawing on similar sonics and themes of time and space travel.
In May, Kan will release his debut album ‘Final Departure’ via boundary-pushing London label Keysound. A collection of eight tracks, it continues to harness traditional dance sounds, but rockets them further away from the club space. Themes include “space travelling, perceptions of reality, parallel worlds and different conscious states,” says Kan, “so there’s lots of different references together that are built towards more of a narrative. While I have a lot of ideas about the tracks, I still like to give a lot of room for listeners to be able to come up with their own interpretations of what they’re hearing.” It’s a stunning body of work, both harsh and beautiful, and cements J-Shadow as a trustworthy guide for those willing to journey with him to the outer rim of electronic music.
J-Shadow ‘Thaw’ [f/c]
J-Shadow ‘DWN2RTH’ [[f/c Keysound]
J-Shadow ‘And Our Lives Were Just A Holograph’ [Beat Machine Records]
J-Shadow ‘Passages’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘Aperture (Out Of Sight)’ [Warehouse Rave]
J-Shadow ‘Shapeshifters’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘Head To Toe (feat. Grove) (Vocal Edit)’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘Parallel Worlds’ [f/c Keysound]
J-Shadow ‘Asphyxiate’ [Comic Sans Records]
J-Shadow ‘The End Of All Physical Form’ [f/c]
J-Shadow ‘NXT1:RLDD’ [f/c Keysound]
Phrixus & J-Shadow ‘Untitled’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘Transmissions’ [Nous Disques]
Phrixus & J-Shadow ‘Return To The Endless Void’ [f/c]
Hypna & J-Shadow ‘Force Lens’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘The Lost Trilogy’ [Unreleased]
Hypna & J-Shadow ‘Airspeeder Pursuit’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘Euxinia’ [f/c]
J-Shadow ‘Particle Horizon’ [Sneaker Social Club]
J-Shadow ‘X-38’ [Unreleased]
J-Shadow ‘5-HT2A’ [Warehouse Rave]
J-Shadow ‘Tundra’ [f/c]
Hypna & J-Shadow ‘Untitled’ [Unreleased]