I’ve never been entirely sure what people think it is I listen to when I say I like house music. If I’m honest, this used to be a harder sell. Back in the old days, when the only real exposure most people got to electronic music were the stories in the perennially outraged Red Tops about The Evils Of Acid House – or in response to a bunch of crusties tooling around and listening to Spiral Tribe in a farmer’s field deep in some Tory enclave – there was so much manufactured dislike that any attempt at explanation or distinction tended to go out the window.
That was then, though, and I guess most people are a bit more open to the music that they once were. It’s still difficult getting the point across, though, and it doesn’t help that most house fans themselves don’t even seem to have much in the way of consensus. None of it is helped by the constant shit-drizzle of watery genres foisted upon everyone by stores like Beatport, although perhaps it is easier to see stuff like Yacht house or Electro house or God knows what else as the result of some sort of commercial Tourettes Syndrome – another jumble of sounds and vague terms spat out into the faces of unsuspecting wanabee DJs.
The best policy is surely not to care. We had all that stuff before – the studied explanations of what for most of us is closer to a way of life than a musical taste that were met with a shrug, or ‘oh, is it disco you like?.’ it’s probably easier just to play something instead. Hell, if nothing else, at least you’ll have something decent to listen to.
What would you play someone? Would it be a twenty year old Larry Heard track, full of warmth and hazy emotion? Something harder and more jacking, a tune from Relief Records back catalogue or Dance Mania? Maybe you’d just chuck on whatever pallid ‘deep house’ number is camping up at the top of the Beatport charts, limply pretending it’s got something to do with anything vital?
I think I would have once played them Preacher Man by Green Velvet, or some potent, acidic snarler by Mike Dunn. I probably still would if I was in a particular sort of mood. I think, though, Anthony Naples’ Ill Still might get the point – and the meaning – across a little bit better.
I’ve been a fan of Naples for a while now, and I’ve reviewed a couple of his records in the past. What I’ve always loved, though, are those tunes he comes up with that seem so effortlessly alive, as if they are reducing house music down to their most important parts before channelling them back to the outside world. His earliest pair of releases, The Mad Disrespect EP on Mister Saturday Night, and his eponymous record on Glasgow’s Rubadub, were just magical. His work since then has been great, no doubt about that, but it’s this brace that just nail a certain vibe.
There is nothing particularly cutting edge about Ill Still ; it’ll never rival the intense, burning newness those old Poindexter or Mike Dunn records had the first time I heard them, knowing that I’d finally found something that had eluded me without me ever realising it. Nor will it smash me around the head with a blunt instrument forged from it’s own cleverness like a number of other contemporary house records I can think of. What it is though is a glorious, sun-kissed explosion of joy. It’s a hands in the air moment of purest technicolour fun tempered by the slightest shadow of melancholy. If techno can be viewed as an abstraction of emotions and intellect and everything in between then house music is the opposite: there is nothing abstract in it – it is a visceral burst of that same emotion and intellect – it pushes outwards instead of in. and while I don’t know if Ill Still is the perfect example of this, of house music and what it really is, I reckon it’s pretty damn close.