Chicago Chicago


Efdemin EfdeminChicago

8.8 / 10

Efdemin  Chicago DIAL RECORDS

Chicago is the place right now, not because there is anything coming out of there—the house scene has been a wasteland for a long time, and only legend is left there—but because everything seems to be coming back to the Windy City. Increasing numbers of producers, record labels, and endless dance music fans, are turning their eyes to Chicago, while out of the corner of their eyes, they continue to watch curiously what’s happening in Detroit, a more lively and productive city, but one that has been more explored at this point. Chicago, on the other hand, sounds fresh again because the classic deep house of its origins had been stored away in our memory like an old piece of furniture that many people have suddenly been blowing the dust off of. And what a beautiful sound it is: 909s without adornment, crude bass lines, pure nerve and tension, minimal architecture, passion, strength. It seems to be a reality that primitive house is back, and more and more groups–Azari & III, The Juan MacLean, Hard Ton– are looking back to the original source to drink in this sound and renew themselves in this time of disorientation and logical wearing out of minimal (which lasted too long) and the neo-Detroit phase. Efdemin too, according to the title of his second album. But is “Chicago” really what it seems to be? Because there’s a trick behind this heading.What we heard in “Efdemin” (Dial, 2007) was a master class in house without clear roots. Of course Philip Sollmann handles a dance culture that many would like to have, but the way that the debut went more in-depth into the emotional, with such appropriate bells, the snowy background of sad pop that seemed to be an unwritten law at Dial, the logical, progressive way that the songs grew until they culminated in an explosion of happiness—none of this specified exactly where Efdemin’s sound came from. Nor was this clear in the case of Pantha Du Prince, who was then recording on the same label. Was it more American or European? Would that patina of Germanic coldness stand up to the heat of the melodies, or would it melt like a block of ice in the tropics? Was it minimalist or progressive, contained in passion, or torrential like a burning love? The truth is that it was all of this and more, a polyhedron of metahouse that deserved its just praise. Now “Chicago” comes along, and Efdemin seems to have taken a turn without moving from the same place where he was, an admirable manoeuvre that shows him to be both the same and different, more American than before, but also hopelessly European, more experimental, but without giving up on speaking with simple, intelligible language. Another album that was different from what he had always done, and also different from what others are doing, obligating one to search for a new rhetoric to describe it.“Chicago” is called “Chicago” because it is house, which is made clear in “Cowbell,” a sort of gently-rocking minimal-house that moves your feet and leaves frequent spaces of silence that microtonal sounds filter into, light layers of digital texture and a cowbell. This song, which opens with a speech in which a voice states: “I can’t decide which piece to start with, so I want to start with any of the pieces I’ve already started,” leading you to understand that this isn’t a closed album, but rather a flow of random sound that works as a whole, and also as a collection of pieces, in whatever order you like, perhaps to listen to on vinyl and in bits. This sets the tone for the entire album— henceforth, it will refer obliquely to deep house with warm harmonies, gentle, tenacious bass drums, with synthesisers that wrap around you like a blanket and give warmth; but it also approaches the other two vertices of a triangle that I would say is unheard of in the entire history of dance music: contemporary music (random, dodecaphonic section and the rest) and bebop. At the end of “Cowbell” there are scattered notes in an arrangement that Escher could have drawn, or that Schoenberg could have composed, and a bit later it is followed by “Oh My God,” the real heart of the album, which even warrants a reprise at the end of it all: cymbals that ring in stereo, a bop club atmosphere in which the piano is played by Thelonious Monk, with Miles Davis on the trumpet, and the machines are run by Losoul: an exemplary rebirth of cool when nobody expected an elegance that is associated with other times and other attitudes.The absolute triumph of “Chicago” is in how this palette of sound is perceived. It doesn’t sound like the old “Jazz In The House”compilations, or like that luxuriant house, part garage and epic of the Slip-N-Slide label, although some minutes of the album hark back without hesitation to music that was fresh fifteen years ago—I’ll be damned if “Shoeshine” doesn’t seem like an updated trance piece as if it were submerged in a bath of Biosphere’s Novelty Waves. What “Chicago” sounds like is the logical evolution of the best microhouse of recent seasons, from Isolée to Luciano, and Bruno Pronsato, evidently by way of Ricardo Villalobos. “Chicago” reminds one a lot of him, with his arrhythmia of bass drums and the atomisation of harmonic coverage—that intriguing “Le Grand Voyage”—at that same time that he lets go of any experimentation, any pseudo-jazz elitism, and any intellectual weight to throw himself with all of the conviction in the world into the world of house with soul depth, like in “There Will Be Singing,” into the porous deep atmospheres of Stephen ‘Soultek’ Hitchell ( “Night Train” is where Echospace should be heading), and into the noises of the city, which are those that pervade “Nothing Is Everything.” This should be a touch of humanity and naturalness in the album, but it turns out that this bustle of the street sampled among dissonant chords, blurry drums, and microtones seems like the rustling that goes along with an alien invasion. It might take us some time to decipher what the fuck Efdemin has done here, but several virtues should be taken into consideration: 1. It isn’t his first album repeated again (good); 2. It also isn’t any other album that you have heard before, even though it might sound like many of them (better); 3. It isn’t an impostor at the expense of jazz and contemporary notation, but rather a thoroughly hedonistic manifesto (applause); and 4. If you try to intellectualise its surface, you lose all of the subliminal feeling that flows underneath. This album is like trying to catch the sea in your hands. I bow before it. Javier Blánquez


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