Theo Parrish - DJ-Kicks: Theo Parrish Music Album Reviews

Theo Parrish - DJ-Kicks: Theo Parrish Music Album Reviews
On a landmark mix album, the Detroit icon gathers together multiple generations of the city’s dance-music faithful in a celebration of history, community, and possibility.

Dance music’s primary function is right there in the name: make the people move. Detroit legend Theo Parrish has been doing this for three decades, both with his superlative productions and ruggedly selected, daringly mixed DJ sets. Although he self-bootlegged his own mixes long ago and is a regular in the NTS booth, where his thematic marathon appearances are avidly tracked, this contribution to the long-running DJ-Kicks series is his first widely released commercial mix album. Let the boogie commence.

And the boogie most certainly does, though what separates Parrish and other Motor City dance-musickers from their contemporaries is an explicit intention to soundtrack how the movement of dance reflects both a community’s memory and its ongoing development. In recent years, historic layers of what’s often aggregated as Detroit Techno™ have been explored with extra diligence—just 2022 has brought an indispensable book (DeForrest Brown Jr.’s thick Assembling a Black Counter Culture) and an excellent film (Kristian Hill’s God Said Give ’Em Drum Machines) that bring its past into concrete context. Detroit’s dance culture is a tributary of the city’s broader musical heritage—always has been, always will be. Yet despite Detroit’s continuing production of innovative club sounds, its adherents remain mostly stuck on past glories. Call it a folk-art mentality if you want, but that critique misses the way that Black music’s improvised and rhythmic progress has operated under a collective “ancient to the future” ethos for over a century, continuously advancing culture. Parrish’s DJ-Kicks, pointedly subtitled Detroit Forward, demands to be judged not only for its ability to move bodies, but also for the sonic possibilities it opens up, and the answers it offers to a crucial question: What is it about Detroit’s linkage of minds, asses, and social potentialities that has played such a key role in American culture?

The artists gathered on Detroit Forward are almost all locals, of different generations and profiles than the originators that Detroit’s global fetishists tend to mythologize. The lone out-of-towner is Andres “Specter” Ordonez, a Chicago house DJ whose productions on Parrish’s Sound Signature label give him honorary 313 status—and whose “The Upper Room,” named after a gospel standard and led by the fluid repetition of an off-kilter piano line, is among the comp’s instant funkafied floor-fillers. The other statesmen are all lesser-known homegrown treasures. There’s RayBone Jones, whose immense DJing skills (he once mentored the budding superstar Kyle Hall) have overshadowed his rare forays into production—though as “Green Funk” attests, he’s inherited the parish craft of mixing bubbly synth basslines, jazzy chords, and understated yet insistent circular rhythms into something both soothing and tense. There’s Howard “H-Fusion” Thomas, a studied experimentalist whose reputation also shrouds a too-short catalog of improvised diversity (from Roland 303 fantasias to R&B stomps that sound like Julius Eastman playing piano house) and whose contribution here, “Experiment 10,” is a rave Koyaanisqatsi. There’s breaks’n’synths wizard Sterling Toles, whose recent ascendancy has been buoyed by old work with the rapper Boldy James, and whose “Janis” shames most lo-fi experimental hip-hop. There’s also saxophonist/flautist De’Sean Jones and keyboardist Jon Dixon, who over the past decade have energized live performances by community stalwarts Underground Resistance, but whose own tracks have remained mostly buried.

Detroit Forward’s other notable feature is that all but one of these contributions are previously unheard (often brand-new) work, picked by Parrish to showcase an artist’s latest direction, as well as the city’s less visible music. This is where the breadth and fluidity of Detroit’s sound is most clear, a snapshot of how a culture’s evolution is informed far from media glare or mainstream platforming. There’s no better example than UR’s Jones, a noted jazz saxophonist, Grammy-nominated arranger of gospel records, and contributor to jazz drummer Makaya McCraven’s band: His three completely different appearances on Forward are a taste of the Detroit tradition operating outside expectation. “Pressure,” the album’s opening track, a collaboration with the vocalist Ideeyah, begins with a delicious looping electric-guitar hook before mutating into a downtempo groover; “Psalm 23” features a small live group playing what could only be described as power gospel; and the horn- and piano-heavy jazz-house of “Flash Spain” is so crisp it’s as though it was just picked off the tree. All of it feels of a piece and very much like Detroit. A similar energy connects drummer/producer Omar Meftah’s pair of contributions: Where his synth-leaning psychedelia accompanying John C’s earnestly biographical raps on “Full” brings late-night dizziness, the layers of percussion that scaffolds the bass synths on the extended “When the Sun Falls” make explicit the jazz bridge between Detroit’s swing and London’s broken beat.

Meftah is among the younger talents in Parrish’s new Detroit, whose approaches seldom fit simple narratives. If the arpeggiated synth and raw drum machine that power producer Terrilyn “Whodat” McQueen and keyboardist Sophiyah Elizabeth’s “Don’t Know” hint at the best of what next-gen Detroit techno could be, and Deon Jamar’s “North End Funk” is a spiraling, minimalist composition that echoes electronic music’s classic experimental wing, other tracks color incoming culture outside prescribed lines. With the help of Nova Zaii, the singer-songwriter Kesiena “KESSWA” Wanogho creates the gorgeous “Chasing Delirium,” a spoken-word “covert blues” deeply informed by noisy, sculpted dissonances; it’s both funk and abstract art. Parrish’s re-edit of Monica “mBtheLight” Blaire’s “aGain” shares that sonic space—a vocal loop and synth lay out a rhythm bed over which Blaire delivers something between a rap, a monologue, and a poem—but when the song turns emotional, it also unleashes simmering hi-tech soul. And at the mix’s center, the pianist/producer Ian Fink, whose credits include Carl Craig’s Synthesizer Ensemble and drummer Kassa Overall’s touring group, lays into his Rhodes during a propulsive, live-band version of Parrish’s 1997 classic “Moonlite,” embodying the hybridity of the main musical intersection that Detroit Forward calls home. It’s familiar, but also musically audacious.

As for the DJ? On this set, the mixmaster defers to his immediate task as selector and advocate. Parrish has never been afraid to speed up or slow down his performances depending on the moment, and this one calls for less mixing-desk aerobics than a 3 a.m. dancefloor might; here, the freewheeling spirit is in the stylistic choices and juxtapositions. Even when picking which of his own tracks to include on Detroit Forward, he parries the notion of club intentions. “Real Deal,” co-credited to Parrish and Duminie DePorres, is a beatless piece of ambient jazz—just piano, Juno, and guitar, an early-in-the-mix Easter egg that hints at what’s going on here. Theo Parrish’s work has long asserted that there’s more to Detroit’s dance music than simply making the people move. It’s a way to celebrate the richness of the community that gave it life, and which continues to be the primary inspiration for the sonic fiction of its beats, techno and otherwise. DJ-Kicks: Detroit Forward proves that few are more trustworthy to sketch that community’s stories and potential futures.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Theo Parrish - DJ-Kicks: Theo Parrish Music Album Reviews Theo Parrish - DJ-Kicks: Theo Parrish Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 05, 2022 Rating: 5


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