Virgo Four Virgo FourResurrection
What happened to Virgo wasn’t an isolated case. The whole history of house in Chicago, at least in the first phase of its development, is one of tremendous disappointment in the record labels and stores. Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders released some of their early 12”s of primitive house on the Trax label owned by Larry Sherman who, while he was the driving force bringing acid and local house to hungry Europe –thus creating the global hype alongside the sister sound of Detroit– he wasn’t exactly known for treating his artists well (not paying them, cutting down contracts –if there were any). Many producers retired from the game pretty quickly, disappointed, others preferred to look for luck elsewhere. There were those who hibernated and, this way, the history of house in its first years remains incomplete, because much of the potential music was never recorded and much of the music that was, was never released. Which is exactly the case of this material, recovered by Rush Hour after months of meticulous archaeological reconstruction: a fistful of unreleased tracks by Virgo Four recorded between 1984 and 1990 that could have been lost forever. Luckily, here they are.
Last year, the only album recorded by the Chicago twosome was also recovered thanks to Rush Hour. Released by Radical Records in 1989, it was the exact reflection of the excellent house of the time: bubbling in the vein of Phuture, melodic and sinuous like Larry Heard, and tense like the tracks of Marshall Jefferson. Virgo were only known to experts and veterans of Chicago house, and for the Rush Hour diggers, going beyond simply reissuing the music became an absolute necessity. The conversations with Lewis and Sanders were pleasant, the treatment correct, and when they learned that there were virgin archives, the trust between both sides did the rest. So out came the cloths and the cleansing started to uncover the treasure: the CD version only contains fifteen tracks, but the vinyl –divided over five records– holds more than twice that amount. And the magic of old school house returns like it was yesterday.
The discovery doesn’t rewrite history, nor does it modify it excessively. The fact that several tracks were cut in 1984 at least adds Virgo Four to the exclusive group of pioneers of house, alongside Jefferson, Jesse Saunders, Farley Jackmaster Funk and others, and it reinforces the nomenclature that identifies this sound more as homemade –as was Virgo’s studio, everything on this record was recorded in poor circumstances– than as club-oriented so that Frankie Knuckles would play it at the Warehouse. But that’s all just theory. The true certainty is that for more than twenty years we have been missing out on these brawny and nervously abstract gems. There is no “ Acid Trax” here, nor a “ Washing Machine” or a “ Promised Land”; none of the tracks sounds like a hidden classic –most of the time they’re home-recorded jams, experiments with the machines and the rhythm, which sometimes should be discarded as halted at the authors’ discretion–, but there are many other things, from burning tracks like “ Moscaw”, “ The Mop” and “ Crayon Box”, that foreshadow the lysergic curvature of the 303, to deep excursions in the vein of Mr. Fingers (“ In The Valley”, “ Let The Music Play”), valuable contributions to the roots of vocal garage (“ Sex”, “ Lost Inside Of You”) and first approaches to the hard house of the mid-nineties to which Green Velvet and early Daft Punk would subscribe later (“ Sexual Behaviour”).
Each and every one of the fragments recovered by Virgo has its catch, they maintain a line and add nuances to the interpretation of the things that were happening in Chicago at the time, halfway through the eighties, a period during which the music was changing and making history. The beautiful vinyl edition, the abundant material and the purity of the music invites the listener to consider these Virgo Four rarities more valuable than they really are –had this been released at the time, house as we know it would have changed essentially–, but the reason that this is a must-have shouldn’t be concealed: because here we have, as if it were new, an overdose of dance music like it will never be made ever again.