When you think on the shapers of dance music, the legends who have rewritten the rule book time and time again, then Theo Parrish is a name who springs to mind.
The Sound Signature boss and Detroit staple has been a figurehead of underground music culture since his first days releasing music on labels like Elevate and Apricot Records, and with twenty years between then and now, he’s never grown tired from his mission to spread the gospel of the dance floor.
Whether as a member of pioneering groups like The 3 Chairs, a solo producer with an endless discography of classics, or as a highly-sought after DJ who truly preaches the art, Theo Parrish is a sonic architect, and his continuous desire to break boundaries and spread his passion makes him one of the most respected voices of underground electronic music.
Ahead of his debut at London’s mega Printworks venue this weekend, where he joins a heavyweight billing of house giants and friends like Marcellus Pittman, Moodymann and Omar-S, we explore his discography by picking out some of our favourite moments from his extensive back catalogue.
1. Heal Yourself and Move (Peacefrog Records, 1998)
Taken from his 1998 First Floor album, this slick number weighs in at 10 minutes, with twitchy percussion and sporadic synths bouncing back and forth until things begin to magically fall into place and find that sweet spot. Certainly a soul cleanser!
2. Moonlite (Sound Signature, 1997)
‘Moonlite’ from ’97 see Theo use similar qualities, building components patiently by giving them space to move before you’re allowed to make sense of them. The eerily charming chord progression loops to a trancelike effect, whilst subtle details of additional percussion make this one creep up on the dancefloor.
3. When I’m Gone (Rush Hour Recordings, 2010)
An effort for Rick Wilhites’ Vibes series, ‘When I’m Gone’ sees Theo further experiment with his twisted club formulas. Arrangement is practically out the window, as drums crash with haunted orchestral melodies and dusty skits of old blues players echo in the distance.
4. 360@1:29on696 (full version) feat. Dumminie Deporres (Sound Signature, 2011)
Taken from his 2013 album Sketches, Theo drifts off to space in ‘360@1:29on696’ as improvised guitar flicks and galactic pads reach for the stars. Sketches of a melody phrase take more shape towards the second half of the 12minute episode, but this bomb remains masterfully loose.
5. Stop Bajon (T.P. Translation) (Archive (2), 2010)
It seems these records keep getting longer, and the ‘Theo Effect’ comes into full force with this remix for Tullio De Piscopo’s 80’s classic. A staggering 16 minute beatdown groove of cosmic funk and alien communication keeps you tangled in its whirlwind right until the end!
6. Lost Angel (Music Is…,2001)
Theo comes angry on this 2001 slow burner, with dissonant pads and gritty sonics sticking to the shadows, rising and falling over time but never quite losing that bitter taste.
7. I Can Take It (Sound Signature, 2001)
Featuring fellow Detroiter Dwele, Theo’s thumping drums and curious keys surround the soul singer’s chopped ’n’ screwed vocals, whilst hissing hats and white noise help spark an eerie atmosphere and ensure the track comes perfectly twisted for those dimly lit dance floors.
8. Children Of The Drum (Sound Signature, 2007)
Originally released in 1997 via Apricot Records, Theo dives right in to the groove on ‘Children Of The Drum’. Descending chords and relentless drum play fight with Jerry the Cat’s sluggish vocals, never quite spiralling out of control but ensuring you’ll be feeling woozy by the time the ride is over.
9. Dan Ryan featuring Jerrald James (Sound Signature, 1998)
With only a beat, a bassline, and some congas, Theo shows what he can do with minimal flavours by making this one of his funkiest jams. Guaranteed to make any room swing in the direction of the DJ.
10. Lost Keys (Music Is…, 1997)
Not sure you can get a house shuffle from anywhere better than Theo’s hi-hats. The twitchy cymbals combine with stomping kicks and sensual keys to make this one a heads down roller, thank god he found those keys!
Theo Parrish plays alongside Marcellus Pittman, Moodymann and Omar-S and more at Printworks on October 20.
Final release tickets available here.
Featured Image: Steve Stills