There’s always something of a contrarian streak to Detroit dance music producer Theo Parrish that can also come across as purist, crotchety, fussbudgety. When he first began releasing music in 1996, Parrish and peers like Kenny Dixon Jr., Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite, Andrés, and more did dance music that was not quite in step with the scene. Instead of futurism and the whirring machinations that informed Detroit’s sleekest export, techno, they preferred house’s slightly slower pulse, their tracks infused with their parents and grandparents’ record collections. Swells of church organ, the coos of R&B, jazz’s swing, funk’s rhythmic gunk—some half-century’s worth of African-American music—teemed just beneath the kick drum.
But as house music tightened and grew sleeker, Parrish’s tracks loosened and turned viscous. He began dropping disco edits and when edits began to flood the market soon after, his grew uglier. Deep house all the rage now? Well then, Parrish’s most recent mix is comprised entirely out of charged 1970’s free jazz. He’s as renowned for not giving you what you want in a DJ set as he is for delivering both the headiest and dankest dance music of the last 20 years.
He gives you all you can handle with American Intelligence, a title that with each passing news day feels more and more like an oxymoron. It’s his first album since 2007 and the end result is a massive listen, a two-hour collection (or else a slightly trimmed triple LP), with 10 of its 15 tracks approaching or breaking the 10-minute barrier. Within it, Parrish embraces the paradox of the title: indulgent and defiant, serious and cheeky, political yet intent on getting your dead ass to move. The man is musically generous, even if a copy in the shop might set you back 50 Euros.
Not Bad For a Record !