“Brian Eno, what the fuck does he know? Doodling away with a fuckin’ alien haircut mate / Head louse / I built a swimming pool in my living room and I called it “Deep House” / You’re so edgy mate / you’re so edgy”
Let’s try this for a solid definition of the deep-housesound; largely instrumental electronic dance music with the occasional soulful vocals (often female) with a generously lush aesthetic, slower tempos, ambient atmosphere, muted bass, spacious percussion and soft keyboard pads. The background structure is a sophisticated and complex repetition of rhythmic beats that keep the groove moving forward. Great dance-floor music, of course. But also music that, when done right, can appeals to the head, the body and the heart in equal measure. Interestingly, the Deep House sub-genre is at least partially responsible for moving dance music away from the Kraftwerk-ish electro-funk of early Techno. Taking dance-music back to the origins of disco; soul, R&B, funk and tropicana. To put it another way, Deep House humanized dance music while remaining firmly in the underground. Most importantly, the current generation of producers have returned the music to the backyard house-party vibe. Assuring that both the audience and the artist can share an atmosphere of artistic freedom from a truly independent music underground. Any influence or compromise from a corporatized music industry is simply nonexistent. Think of Detroit House & Techno as a soulful, groovy rebellion against a generic and homogenized music industry.
Upstairs Asylum Recordings is the record label/imprint established by a legend of the Detroit house scene, Norm Talley. Often described as the renaissance man of a scene that is exploding across the clubs, festivals and independent music-shops of the city. As if the UAR label was founded with the specific intent of celebrating the tradition of house/techno music AND growing the subterranean music community. Talley managing the near impossible task of pulling together the various styles and influences of the legendary Chicago-Detroit alliance under one unified label. With music ranging from the sharply-textured beats of techno to the cool-dreaminess of deep-house. And the team at USR has certainly has been busy; producing 11 top-quality releases since the labels inception in 2021. Did we say “top quality”? The music pouring out on their various albums, singles and 12’s is classic Detroit electronic music: innovative, melodic and endlessly danceable. USR is a label that deserves our attention.
So were to begin? The freshly released compilation’s Unity Vol 1 & 2 would be a fine, fine place to focus our listening. (Although, all the releases are worth investigating). The two compilations feature a cross-section of music by local producers; Jon Dixon, Darrin Abrams, Rick Wade, Dorian Gig, Kyle Hall, Ataxia, Mike Clark, Kai Alce, Eddie Fowlkes, Santonio Echols, Brian Kage, Gari Romalis, Delano Smith and Tyree Cooper, as well as Norm Talley himself on the outstanding La Beaunienare. Talley brings that special melodic rush with a chilled, hypnotic keyboard-line. The melody sharing time and space with a tight techno-beat that makes standing still an impossibility. This is music that works on the dancefloor, in your car or on the livingroom floor. Other standouts tracks are Kyle Hall‘s Pico with it’s atmospheric 80s synth-riffs. And then there’s Darren Abrams’ amazing Detroit Ur My Star; a track that is everything great House music could be and should be. That is, soulful electronic music. The Unity albums are released separately as two 2×12″ collections; together they are the must-own albums for those interested in jumping into the “deep-end” of the current Detroit House / Techno scene. These are two damn near perfect compilations overflowing with great tracks produced by the brightest stars in the electronic music universe. Each track brings a fresh perspective to the music that will keep the discerning listener interested throughout the summer of 2022 (and beyond). The Unity 1 & 2 albums provided a useful window into the tradition of artistic innovation that has always been at the heart of Detroit’s electronic music underground.