The term ‘deep house’ has been thrown around so much that it’s hard to tell what it actually means anymore. The truth is, however, does it really matter what genre is ascribed to any piece of music? When I see the term used I immediately think of the Amnesia album by Mr. Fingers and all that followed in its wake. In some ways ‘deep house ‘ has suffered from what used to be a ‘DJ culture’ becoming a ‘producer culture.’ DJ culture was one thing in the ’80s, another in the ’90s and something else in the subsequent decades.
There have always been both DJ and producer realms within dance music culture as a whole, but when the role of the DJ is entirely predicated on his or her ability to also be a producer I feel that the DJ capacity is somehow compromised and is then set firmly within the generic boundaries of what she or he produces. The DJs who were pioneering, if not revolutionary, were the ones who realized genres could be mixed and matched and as a result…realized new genres. Look at how inventive eclectic DJs like Larry Levan, Tony Humphries and Ron Hardy were at the peak of their genius. Daniele Baldelli’s open, and amazingly creative, disregard for genres is also inspiring.
I’m not saying that DJs shouldn’t produce, but sometimes the producer is forced to DJ in order to tour their music, and DJing simply isn’t a skill at which he or she excels. The inverse of this is true also. However, it is hard to translate the eclectic approach that effortlessly comes to some DJs. A track produced gets generically tagged and if the producer strays from the ‘brand’ it can be harmful to her or his career. So, there are a lot of generic DJs, generic club nights and entire scenes that are generic. The records reviewed below are certainly deep house, but could also be worked into techno sets.
In the ’90s we got the ready made ‘tech house’ genre and some of those records were fantastic, but it was also fun to skirt around the edges of that style with deep house, the deeper, and sometimes abstract, end of garage (the dreamy dubs and vocal cuts produced by the likes of Blaze, Mood II Swing etc.) and straight up minimalist techno. DJs like Mr. C, Terry Francis, Stacey Pullen and Derrick May could do this with finesse. That spirit is still out there to be explored. These records reviewed below are a good place to start.
Tranquil Solutions EP
Pioneering London label Music Is offer the house phreak two discs of beautiful music. Detroit resident Theo Parrish’s “Smile” EP is a three tracker of lush but lo-fi tracky, warm and soulful house. Funky beats, crisp flourishes of keyboard work and beefy bass all conspire to shift your rump and tickle your cerebral cortex.
Chris Gray, who recently delivered an album for Music Is, ventures into his usual deeper waters with a four-track EP of aquatic house that is replete with round, warm basslines. atmospheric washes and subtle Detroitisms. “In The Dark” is perfectly suited for marathon deep sessions in the late AM. House music for the butt and the brain, essential for those who dig Glenn Underground or John Beltran in dancefloor mode. Chris Orr