House Musicby Kikumoto Allstars
Stylistic revivalism in electronic dance music can be a tricky and somewhat nebulous concept. For music that's so emphatically about the immediate present moment, electronica has always had a strong sense of its own history; on the other hand, it tends to place so much emphasis on forward progression (even if the nuances of the actual musical development are frequently imperceptible to the uninitiated) that there's little time or tolerance for overt backwards-gazing. Eventually though, some amount of nostalgia-driven retreading and rediscovery was probably inevitable; as it happened, the mid-2000s -- several decades and numerous clearly distinct musical phases removed from the early days of the music's development -- saw a widespread resurgence of interest in the earliest strains of late-'70s and early-'80s electronic disco. Chronologically speaking, the logical next step would be a full-on retro-revival of mid- to late-'80s Chicago house, and that's exactly what Kikumoto Allstars (aka Australian producer Cam Farrar) has in mind with the unambiguously titled House Music. Perhaps the most striking thing about the album is the specificity of its homage: Farrar identifies not only which of the genre's pioneering producers influenced which specific cuts on his album, but in some cases which particular tracks provided inspiration. Classic house devotees should enjoy playing spot-the-influence here: "Still Can't Stop the House" cribs from the similarly titled Thompson & Lenoir cut, while "Bending Time" was inspired by a certain Virgo/Marshall Jefferson track and "DCO," with its incessant, monolithic synth hook, is reminiscent of Larry Heard's work as Mr. Fingers. Anyone without an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, on the other hand, would be hard-pressed to distinguish these from "genuine" '80s-vintage house cuts, so thorough is Farrar's re-creation of the era's specific style. It certainly helps that he used the right tools for the job, employing a dream collection of Roland analog machines (the TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, SH-101, JX-8P, TB-303, and Juno synths, for those keeping score) and, on many tracks, appropriately deadpan and sly male and female vocals. Such detailed focus on authenticity and accuracy could conceivably result in a prosaic, pointless rehash, but thankfully that's far from the case here. Showcasing an impressive array of moods and approaches, from the hard-driving acid tracks "I'll Make You Jack" and "Jack the House" to moodier instrumentals like "Sagittarius" and the gorgeous, scintillating "Last Train to Chi-Town," House Music is both a loving testament to a bygone era and a breezily enjoyable demonstration of how vital that era's music still remains, suggesting that maybe dance music sensibilities haven't changed that much after all.
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- Int'l Deejay Gigolo
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