Gene Hunt/Steve Murphy: Split Grooves Vol4 – Wilson Records

It’s been a weird week. Everything from schizophrenic Spring time Scottish weather to unseemly spats on social media have contributed to a feeling of lethargy and sleepiness. It didn’t help that the number of records I fancied buying let alone reviewing seems, in the digestive period since the much over-hyped Record Store Day, to have dropped away to zilch.

Usually it would take something warped to get the fires burning again, anything to excite the jaded hunger we all feel when we’ve overdosed on something we love. Alternately, sometimes it’s better to get a little bit of what you actually need rather than what you want. Turns out what I needed were a bunch of straight up House Jams.

Gene Hunt occupies that space in electronic music that usually walled up with words like ‘legend’. The man is indeed that – he’s probably forgotten more about House music than most of us will ever know. His early work tied a Detroit sensibility to the thrust of proper Chicago House, appearing on labels widely spaced as Trax and Djax Upbeats. Recently Hunt has curated a pair of compilation albums – Gene Hunt Presents Chicago Dance Tracks – built up of tunes that never got much exposure outside of their native Chicago. Anyone with an interest in House music should beg, borrow or steal copies.

Hunt opens his side of the record with Get Down, a writhing, pumping old-school jacker that does exactly what the title says. It’s the essence of simplicity: a descending bass, thick as a tree trunk, choppy fragments of funk guitar and a sample so obvious but so perfect it’ll be stuck in your head for weeks. Below all that are the huge drums built purely for the dance floor and full of the little touches and frills that’ll keep you wriggling.

S And S is the comedown to Get Down’s boisterous fun, although it should be noted that it’s still a proper mover. Wonky synths glide over the clanking beats, leading into a riff so plaintive and heartfelt it captures you almost unaware. When people talk about late night music, the sort of tunes that can only make true sense when you hear them in a darkness drenched club at three in the morning, this is the sort of thing they mean, whether they know it or not. A perfect down-beat counter to the opener.

The B-side of the split goes to Steve Murphy who is often to be found on Chi-Wax and Lobster Theramin ( a label currently enjoying a bit of a surge at the moment.) Despite the name, Murphy hails from just outside Venice. Not that you would know it from his two tunes here – both are as deep and jacking as any genuine Chicagoan House you would care to mention.

Relaxed Groove opens with heavy storm-cloud synths and the deepest of sub bass grunts that usher you into the vocal cuts that wrap around the rhythm with the precision of a master craftsman. I have to admit that it took me a couple of listens to get into it. At first I thought it an impressive piece of Big Room House – and it is – but there is a subtlety to it in the way it builds and glides that belay such obvious pretensions. Let it wash over you, carry you forward and up, and it’ll do its work.

I Killed the Love is the best of the lot – and that’s saying something when you’ve got a pair of Gene Hunt monsters holding court. Like Hunt, it welds the vibes of Detroit and Chicago together. It’s dominated by a robotic, jacking riff that whiplash across the brutally functional drums with the reverbed vocal hanging back in the space. In its own way it is as simple as Get Down, loftier, perhaps, but no less funky. A tune for the strobes of your favourite hole-in-ground club to freak out to. Proper House – just what I needed.

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