I think there has often been a bit of a misunderstanding about House music. Of the various electronic genres, it sometimes seems as if House has been treated as a bit of an idiot child; a hand waving party creature of no real depth or sophistication. Techno frequently seems to get the serious folk being serious, marvelling at the depth of the mix and the cleverness of the sound design whilst everyone applauds the artist slowly opening the filters on his synth on the back of galloping beats for eight or nine minutes. The various step children of Drum n Bass, meanwhile, grapple with wearing the oversized ‘Authenticity’ hat whilst Guardian writers wet themselves about how exciting urban British music is just now as they snort caviar off the slick covers of Disclosure CDs.
Which is kind of weird given the history of House, because some of the darkest, most evil sounding records I have ever heard have been House. Go and listen to House of God by DHS, or Baby Wants to Ride by Frankie Knuckles, or Where’s Your Child by Bam Bam. Still not convinced? How about U Used To Hold Me by Ralphie Rosario? That track is down, dirty and hard. Yep, a lot of these come under the Acid tab – and there are obviously hundreds of records out there that are more concerned with what to wear to a cool club than with making you shiver, but all of these tunes are House first and foremost.
Jared Wilson’s This Love, from his 2009 record Ghettoblaster on 7777, is as good an example of a modern take on this heritage as I can find. It’s bleak, it’s dark, it’s heavy, and it prowls the derelict edge of the senses like a serial killer preying on the lost and lonely. It falls in a direct line with the other tunes I’ve mentioned above – and you can go even further back; the ghosts on Phuture hanging over the music, whispering to it like voices in a fraying mind.
From the fist like kick drum ushering in a classic, properly jacking bassline, there isn’t any doubt about the tune. It’s going down into the depths, carrying the plaintive cry of ‘This Love’ into oblivion. The razor orchestra of the percussion snap and harass the body and the soul, and a single 303, drenched in reverb, ranges ahead and around, looking for every opportunity to get at you. And get at you it does, in the game of cat and mouse it plays with the deeper bass underneath it.
This is urban music. This is empty streets and scattered hopes. This is the desolation on the other side of the party night writ large, and it sets the pulse racing in the way that no amount of carefully tempered snare drum waveforms can ever hope to do.