House music has always fetishised its past; arguably it’s as much about appealing to the past as it is about innovation – where in the blissed out haze of an afterhours, a record released in 1993 can be indecipherable from one in 2013. Yet in the last five-or-so years its reflexive nature seems to me to have become increasingly overt with, for instance, the resurgence of interest in the New Jersey sound – as championed by Bicep – or the balmy, slinky 80’s flavoured House that imprints like Hot Creations fawn over.
So when a record is released by three producers – on the wrong side of thirty – whose solo efforts have gone a long way to maintaining Detroit’s musical relevance, it generally sets the blogosphere ablaze and has vinyl junkies clamouring for their wax fix. This isn’t strictly true in say the rock world, where more often than not a new record by an icon from thirty years back is generally met with polite interest and tends to piss over their musical legacy (cheers Lou Reed). So on the occasion that a certain Theo Parrish, Kenny Dixon Jr, Rick Wilhite and Marcellus Pittman join forces for the first time in seven years under their 3 Chairs moniker, you can almost smell the burning fibre optic cables, as bloggers frantically scrabble to be the first to break the news.
Despite having been around since the end of the nineties (their debut record as 3 Chairs was released back in ’97) their output has been anything but prolific with a handful of 12” and a single LP to their name. But this slow release schedule lends itself to the quality and style of their music which is generally produced in a live jam scenario (who sits on the floor?) taking the form of stripped down, analogue sketches constructed around the Deep House template. The appropriately titled Demigods released on KDJ’s Mahogani Music follows a similarly trajectory to their previous outings – muffled kicks, spartan drum programming – sounding like it was mixed on reel-to-reel, which gives the record a wonderfully raw, unpolished feel.
The title track lets loose with a squelching, acidic groove that oozes itself inside the space left by the sparse drum track, while percussive crashes are interjected at random threatening to derail the track’s momentum. It’s made all the more disorientating by the glacial otherworldliness of the pads – that surface two thirds of the way through – before being reshaped back into a more familiar house groove by the prominent re-emergence of the swaggering bass line. The effect is a track that is simultaneously brittle and brusque.
Elephant Ankles pays homage to Theo Parrish’s love of Jazz – where soulful cadences rub up against the odd poly-rhythmic structure of the interlocked drums and wah soaked guitar. It’s perhaps the most organic cut on the record and most clearly attributed to the ideas of a single producer. In contrast, 6 Mile sounds more abstract and less human, recalling the woozy deconstructed funk and machine squelches of Perlon. The record fittingly ends with Celestial Contact, a languid slow burning track centred around an infinitely looped piano flourish and coiled bass line that over the course of its seven minutes steadily unfurls itself, misleading you into thinking it’s going to break into full swing till, instead it rather cheekily peters out.
Given the overproduction (both in a technical and numerical sense) and overconsumption (due largely to the internet) of dance music it takes a truly exemplary record to stand out from the herd. So, it seems the perfect remedy to this sensory overload, and rather fitting that a record produced on old gear comprised of a few choice elements, and released via an old medium strikes such a deep chord with listeners in this day and age.
House music’s charm and post geographical appeal has, for me, always been simply about its groove and soul, which in turn stems from the dual rhythms of a good bass and drum track – few have understood this in recent years and utilised this as well as these Detroit heads do on Demigods. TIP!
‘Demigods’ is out now on 12″ vinyl courtesy of Mahagoni Music