By any standard, 2013 was a busy year for Joey Anderson. Following on from his proper arrival (on the back of 2012s stand out Earth Calls 12″) he built up a reputation with half a dozen EPs that placed him squarely as something more than the mate of Levon Vincent, DJ Qu and the rest of the New Jersey crew. Each new release seemed to usher in another facet of his blossoming skills as a producers – which is really saying something considering this is the guy who gave us the stunning Three Analysis on Exchange Place, the Strength Music sampler from five or six years back. Two of those 2013 records, Diagram Solutions and Above The Cherry Moon, were perhaps even finer than Earth Calls and probably sealed the deal for many of us. In the same way that Carl Craig began to better much of the work of his Detroit peers, Anderson has reached a point where not only is he at least as vital as his Jersey Contemporaries but actually looks set to eclipse them.
Although things have been much quieter this so far in 2014, he’s back with this album for Dutch label Dekmantel. It’s perhaps a slightly odd home for him, alongside more mainstream acts like San Proper and Juju and Jordash, but it’s not as if that matters. What matters is that Anderson has returned to the surface with one of the finest albums you are likely to hear this, or any other year. And, considering some of the other LPs kicking around at the moment, that’s a real accomplishment.
As with his various EPs, After Forever isn’t a work that lends itself to instant gratification. There is a subtly and sense of space common to all the tracks that suggests a take on dance music that owes less to the brute functionalism of floor-centric club music than it does to a calmer, introspective examination of what House and Techno can be, and what they might be capable of. Two of the opening tracks, Space Between Curtains and Space Color Ideas even lack beats. These are no ambient interludes – once so common of Electronica albums – but poised, baroque and finely elegiac instrumentals where the swell of the pianos wash against the machine-wrought elements. Both are ghost-like and fragile, wraiths of sound.
Even when the beats do arrive (as the certainly do) they never dominate, never seek to force their own tones onto the fine fabric of the music. Instead they take the myriad elements by the hand and guide them through the mix. Even on the handful of tracks that approach the flow of regular club readiness, like on the cosmic stepping of It’s a Choice, say, or the Acidic Amp Me Up, they retain a fluidity, a sense that they are just another part to be toyed with and enjoyed rather than artificially pushed onto us.
It’s when Anderson moves into territory similar to Carl Craig, though, that the album really comes into its own. I’ve mentioned Craig twice now for a reason: there is something of the way in which Anderson uses sounds as something more than simple textures that recall the Detroit great’s own symphonies of pulses and tones as heard under his Psyche and 69 guises. Sorcery, for example is a wondrous example of High-Tech Soul brought forward into the new millennium. The way the synths and the bass weave together with the groove and the shuffle of the hats is pure deep space jazz. It’s reprised across other tunes. Maidens Response drifts into similar territory to Craig’s own seminal Landcruising whilst sounding utterly contemporary, and Archers Ceremony is an aching paean to the future, cloaked in cascading Drexciyan Synths.
After Forever astounds with the breadth of the artists vision. As with all the best art it has an innate understanding of the way in which past processes and thoughts have allowed it to reach a point where it can propel itself into a tomorrow barely glimpsed but so well realised. It’s an achievement which makes all else around it look ordinary and drab, right now, and after forever.