Wagenmuzik cover

Wagenmuzik

Released

At a moment where being “internet-famous” feels tenuous and “house music” can mean a lot more than it used to, Dirty Bird being an internet-famous artist who makes house music is maybe the least-definitive thing you could say about him. Then again, Wagenmuzik is proof that “definitive” might be beside the point where the Virgina Beach-based producer is concerned: it’s a slippery house-diaspora thing that, even as a six-song EP, points in multiple directions instead of bearing down on just one. There are throughlines — two-step and its UK garage antecedents, the micro-chopped, burbling vocal melodies of Todd Edwards; a strain of Balearic beat that emphasizes both its ambient serenity and its low-end funkiness — but they’re woven together and cross-pollinated to more stylistically elusive (and fascinating) ends. In working so many of the rhythmic angles that 40-ish years of the genre’s evolution can handle within its two-step-simpatico 4/4 framework, Dirty Bird winds up finding a different unifying concept: using a soulful sense of mellowness as trojan horse for yearning. It can be abstract enough to meet you halfway, as long as you bring your own emotions to the table; this is the kind of music where a refrain like “oh, look what you have done/to me” (“Effect”) is ambivalent enough to have its meaning shaped by how guilty or euphoric you already feel about the last person you’ve had an impact on, and the titular refrain at the heart of Leon English collab “Let’s Touch” could land anywhere from uninhibited lust to just a renewed yearning for simple human contact. But even if the vibe feels like an effort to revive something less maximalist and more tightly-engineered in dance music — to invoke the EP’s titular metaphor, a clean throwback estate car that still feels as spacious as the oversized SUVs that crowded it out of the market — there’s enough peak-summer heat in its rousing kick-snare interplay to make it feel as big as it needs to. And it closes on a downtempo number, a teamup with Buffalo-based producer Disktr4k titled “Astral,” that absolutely nails the atmospherics of turn-of-the-’90s classics of euphoric ambient techno a’la 808 State and The Orb. If Todd Terry was right that house is a feeling, then Dirty Bird seems prepared to make it strike every possible nerve it can.

Nate Patrin

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