Detroit House

Detroit is the birthplace of techno and Chicago is the birthplace of house; but Detroit has also been making house music since before techno even had a name. It’s hardly surprising that Detroit house exists, given house and techno’s common musical ancestry, and that they developed at the same time in US cities around 300 miles apart via the same synths, samplers and drum machines. The pioneering mid/late 80s techno releases of ‘Belleville Three’ Juan Atkins, Kevin Sanderson and Derrick May, along with other Detroit producers like Eddie ‘Flashin’ Fowlkes, were some of the biggest selling tracks on the nascent Chicago house scene, and there were plenty of Chicago records from the time that would later be classified as techno too. (Quick caveat: many of the artists mentioned here make both house and techno, as well as various hybrids, some of them would probably dispute my categorisation of their music as one or the other genre, and some simply reject the genres completely; the space between what’s definitely techno and what’s definitely house will always remain something of a musical grey area and open to debate). 

In their infancy the boundaries between the two genres were far from clear, with techno only really receiving its own distinct identity after the name of 1988’s genre-defining compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit was changed from The House Sound of Detroit due to the last-minute inclusion of Juan Atkins’s “Techno City“. However, there were differences between the scenes that Chicago house and Detroit techno emerged from that affected their sound and character, and this was also reflected in Detroit house as it developed. 

While there were exceptions, Chicago house was a largely gay scene whereas Detroit techno was generally straight. Chicago house had more songs while techno, except for Inner City and a few other acts, was generally instrumental. House was happy to reuse disco bass lines, recycle old disco vocals, and re-edit disco tunes. Techno meanwhile was more forward-looking and less enamoured of old-style disco. It was instead entranced by the musical possibilities hinted at by the various disco upgrades of new wave, synthpop and Italo disco that were the soundtrack of early 80s Detroit parties and clubs. 

Writer Dan Sicko in his excellent Techno Rebels book spoke of a generation of Detroit kids who wanted to escape their city’s musical history of Motown and George Clinton and so turned to European new wave and synthpop, not realising they were just turning to another white interpretation of black music. “It was inevitable,” he observed, “with all that post-urban introspection, sci-fi images and affection for stark European synthesisers that Detroit’s music would end up someplace different to that made by the party kids of Chicago.”  Those party kids inhabited a club scene that was, according to authors/DJs Bill Brewster and Frank Tope’s seminal Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, full of “big, fired-up clubs, all those kids frantically making records, hanging out, biting ideas off each other.” In contrast, techno was incubated in the quiet suburbs of post-industrial Detroit, and the character of the two cities clearly had an influence, as described in Last Night…: “The two styles were very different emotionally too, in keeping with the cities that bred them: while house was about lustful churchy energy, techno deals in lament and anxiety.” 

Inevitably many of the influences that drove the style, approach and sound of techno also influenced the house music that came out of Detroit at the same time. Perhaps the stylistic differences aren’t immediately apparent, but fans will tell you that Detroit house has its own distinctive character. Certainly initially, Detroit house music wore its disco heritage quietly, eschewing its diva vocals and camp energy in favour of outré chord stabs, stately synthetic pads and sci fi synth work. Early/mid-90s Detroit house like the pounding, efficient, shimmering, abstract grooves of K-Hand, the clear, crystalline, functional-funk of Mike Huckaby, or Octave One’s occasional forays into emotive, uplifting deep house were often a little more futuristic and spacey than their euphoric, sweaty Chicago counterparts and often felt a little more measured, restrained and controlled too. 

Sibling producer duo (sometimes trio) Octave One’s classic second-wave techno EP Day By Day from ’92 features a couple of great examples of the early Detroit house sound in “Jackie’s Theme” and “In The Breeze.” The piano riffs, the Moog-sounding bass lines and the synth washes are all very similar to contemporaneous Chicago house but the drums sound different; Detroit house drums often had less swing and ‘jack’ than Chicago house and sometimes came with a more rolling, relentless, production-line style rhythm. There tended to be less sampling and more programmed elements than Chicago house tracks too, making for a more futuristic aesthetic. And Detroit house, much like techno, was not as obviously joyous or excited as Chicago, with some kind of restraint and reserve in the chords and melodies, a sense of introspection and melancholy, and perhaps even a flavour of that famed Detroit post-industrial-malaise that was so vital in defining techno’s character.

Octave One were one of several artists given a kickstart by inclusion on the Equinox compilation on  Carl Craig and Daniel Booker’s Retroactive label. Craig would go on to be one of Detroit’s most influential and idiosyncratic electronic artists, his productions and labels often redefining and broadening the sonic possibilities of both house and techno. Retroactive only ran for a year in 1990 but as Sicko in Techno Rebels says, it was “…a preview of the next two years of Detroit techno — a subtle declaration that its sound could no longer be defined simply by the productions of Atkins, May and Saunderson.” Amid the compilation’s second-wave-defining techno was a pair of beautiful, dreamy deep house tunes, Urban Tribe’s “Covert Action and Craig’s “As Time Goes By (Sitting Under A Tree)” featuring Sarah Gregory, along with a very housey tune, “The Theory,” from techno militants Underground Resistance

Although best known for hard-hitting purist techno, Underground Resistance also recorded some very-house material during this period too. Their 1990 “Your Time Is Up” with vocalist Yolanda came with a distinctly Italian house-sounding mix, and the hissing 707 disco hats, chunky Moog-ish bass and smooth keys of their “303 Sunset” sound very Chicago house while maintaining that Detroit cool, detached, serene aesthetic that techno had perfected. 

Octave One’s 430 East label, established in 1990, mainly released techno but also put out fellow Detroit-er Terrance Parker’s first EP in ’92. Parker would go on to be another influential figure in Detroit house, pursuing his own strand of devotional, gospel piano house to substantial impact and success. 

After Retroactive folded, Craig established his Planet E label in 1992, home to mostly forward-thinking techno but that also put out a pair of brilliant and influential Detroit house albums, Recloose’s Cardiology from 2002 and Moodyman’s Silent Introduction from 1997. Moodyman was one of several Detroit producers who in the mid-90s re-embraced disco but in a distinctly Detroit way: playing down its celebratory and euphoric nature and distilling it down into relentless, looping, psychedelic grooves. Moodymann launched his KDJ label in ’94 and, with occasional select releases from the likes of Andrés, Alton Miller and Rick Wilhite, for twenty years turned out a catalogue of raw, rolling, disco/R’n’B-sample house: hypnotic, hazy, occasionally out-there but always dance floor ready. Chicago house producers at the time like Glenn Underground, Gene Farris or DJ Sneak tended to use their disco samples to generate excitement and euphoria, rinsing out the most uplifting orchestrated two-bar sample loops and placing them on a bed of skippy, highly swung garage-house beats. The mid/late 90s Detroit house of artists like Moodymann, Andrés and Rick Wilhite took a different approach to the drums, often using crackly old vinyl drum loops and chunky hip hop-tinged MPC beats alongside Roland drum machines, and they worked disco and R’n’B elements into a new, narcotic, gauzy, twisted and space-age version of deep house, futurist and detached, like its older brother techno. 

This strand of Detroit house was part of a clear broadening of the sound in the second half of the ‘90s that also included the sonic experimentalism of Theo Parrish, a Detroit producer and DJ who launched his influential Sound Signature label in ’97. In different ways both Parrish and Craig were key in redefining what house music could be, widening the possibilities through experimentation, and often transcending genre entirely. In 1998 Parrish, along with Moodymann and Rick Wilhite launched Three Chairs, a Detroit deep house label for their collaborative Three Chairs project (Marcellus Pittman joined in 2003), re-tooling ancient disco and soul into new, hypnotic shapes, continuing the Detroit tradition of integrating jazz and electronic music, and again, pushing the boundaries of what house could sound like.

2002’s Detroit Beatdown Vol 1 compilation, put together by Detroit producer and DJ Norm Talley, was a great audio snapshot of the more introspective and laid-back side of Detroit house at the start of the 2000s: Malik Alston’s “Butterfly was a delicate, light-touch melding of soul-jazz and deep house, Rick Wilhite’s “Ruby Nights” delivered that languid, twisted, intense Detroit narco-house sound, Theo Parrish’s “Falling Up” was a skeletal dissection of house and jazz rhythms, and the album introduced the slick, space-age deep grooves of Delano Smith, Mike ‘Agent X’ Clark’s nocturnal disco-chuggers and Pirahnahead’s sparse, electro-tinged house. 

In 2012 Marcellus Pittman collected together his first few vinyl releases on his Pieces album, the conflicting cross rhythms and technical/production wizardry on show demonstrating just how far Detroit house had moved on from the warm fluffy pad chords, Rhodes keys flourishes and 909 beats house music template. Through all its various stylistic mutations and hybridising, genre divisions and sub-divisions — the crisp, space age, raw grooves of Rick Wade, K-Hand and Mike Huckaby, the potent, hazy, smoked-out, sampleology of Moodyman or Rick Wilhite, the angular, fragile, loose and unconventional rhythms of Theo Parrish, Three Chairs’ psychedelic discoid jazz house, or the secular devotional piano anthems of Terrance Parker — the Detroit house community has produced a rich, potent and influential catalogue that has continued to be further developed by new generations of artists. Detroit producer Patrice Scott’s Sistrum label has been putting out smokey late-night house cuts since the mid-2000s, including music from seminal players like Alton Miller and new school Detroit producers like Javonntte, whose current 12” releases continue to fly the flag for sophisticated, forward-facing instrumental Detroit deep house. Producer, songwriter and DJ O B Ignitt’s Obonit label put out a small but perfectly formed discography of silky deep house and understated techno between 2014 and 18. Detroit singer, producer and keyboardist Niko Marks remains a remarkably prolific house and techno producer, clocking up around 50 albums in 25 years, his latest mini-album Jazz Nagas another bumper package of quality dance floor house music. Kyle Hall’s Forget The Clock label has been slowly crafting a refined catalogue of funk-filled, sophisticated deep house since 2019, while Rick Wade’s career may have started in ‘94 but he’s still putting out relevant, cutting-edge house music on quality labels today. 

The Detroit house spectrum in the 21st century includes music that has moved far away from the standard 4/4 kick/hats/snare basics, where ill-quantised beats fall apart and reassemble themselves, where off-key samples create queasy, hallucinatory house, and where sound design, found sound and sonic experimentation push the boundaries of what house can be. But it also includes the highly orchestrated and pristinely arranged accessible soulful house of Alton Miller, those mesmerising tripped-out disco-narco grooves of Moodymann, the club-ready raw ’n’ real deep house of Norm Talley, the sensuous sci-fi tech soul of Marcellus Pittman, and much more. From a city that has given the world so many musical innovations, Detroit house music in the 21st century is quietly, with class, restraint, and undeniable groove, continuing to deliver.

Harold Heath

City Boy Players

City Boy Players, Eddie Fowlkes, Niko Marks
City Boy Players cover

This is the first album from Detroit’s keyboardist, singer and producer Niko Marks, an artist who has put out at least 50 albums since his 1999 debut. It’s a future-jazz/soul/hip hop/downtempo/house project made in collaboration with Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes, a producer known more for his techno productions. Two Detroit creatives, one at the start of their recording career, the other a decade and a half in, and it’s something quite different from much of their other output. They blend the Detroit house and techno sound palette — sophisticated, detailed funky dance floor drum machine beats, alien synth sounds, loops/repetition — with jazz sample minor seventh diminished chords, live instrumentation, soul vocals and rap, into a series of electronic sampleology tech/jazz hybrids. In terms of Detroit house, it’s a sound that has absorbed some of the musical experiments of Carl Craig or Rick Wilhite but that also has one foot in the more direct, soulful house world of an artist like Alton Miller. 

The end result is an atmospheric Detroit album that alternates between club tracks leaning towards the more melodic, soulful end of the 90s house spectrum, smokey, jazz flecked hip hop and futuristic street soul.

Silentintroduction

Moodymann
Silentintroduction cover

Detroit producer Kenny Dixon Jr.’s 1997 debut album was a compilation of his previous 12” single releases from his KDJ Records label. It’s an atmospheric, hazy, melancholic collection of deep house; repetitive, experimental and with an overall aesthetic that reeks of authenticity — the EQ tweaks on tracks like Oceans sound as live as any you’d hear in a DJ mix tape. One of Dixon’s many gifts is the ability to imbue his sample-based tracks with a sense of life and humanity, something he does expertly here, filling his sampler with snippets from the history of black music, reworking them into contemporary club tracks, creating maximal cosmic disco-tech from minimal elements. All the tracks are edited to run into each other, kind of like a DJ club set, which just adds to the complete immersive nature of the thing. An excellent debut. 

Moodymann

Moodymann
Moodymann cover

This self-titled effort from 2014 is rich, varied and full of many KDJ production trademarks: the smudged and fuzzy samples, the off-balance codas, re-fried disco cut-ups, deep, glowing techno, raw soul, references to the shifting history of black music, and all with the spirit of Detroit hanging over proceedings. His vocals are continually mutated and altered by studio effects, his arrangements play with pitch and tempo and stylistically he’s happy to carve out a musical journey that twists and turns from genre to genre. It’s one of his best most fully realised outings, fun and serious, cosmic and earthy: Moodymann is full-fat, supercharged, heartbreak soul and futurist disco. 

First Floor

Theo Parrish
First Floor cover

More experimental than most of his Detroit house counterparts, Theo Parrish’s debut album is one of a kind: it’s house but not as we know it, taking the genre to new, unfamiliar places via samples, drum machines and a highly idiosyncratic approach. With this album, Parrish solidified his use of rhythmic unreliability, using off-beat, leftfield and unconventional rhythmic patterns, to the extent where the opening track “First Floor Metaphor” somehow transforms from a 4/4 house beat to a 3/4 waltz rhythm and back again. The album constantly plays with the listener’s expectations, exploring new ways that house music can groove, replacing the standard thudding 4/4 kick-hat-clap drums with shifting cross-rhythms that slip in and out of sync and fragile, skeletal, angular beats. Bold, uncompromising, the kind of album that clears space for others to follow.

3 Chairs

3 Chairs
3 Chairs cover

Three Chairs was a Detroit house label launched in ‘97 by Theo Parrish, Kenny Dixon Jr. and Rick Wilhite (joined by Marcellus Pittman in ’03) for their productions. The 12” releases were credited to individual members but this album from 2004 is credited just to ‘Three Chairs’ and it remains unclear how much of it may be collaborative. It’s something of a revered classic in the deep house world, a collection of deep, brooding, moody, introspective house tracks, created from re-worked dusty old soul, R’n’B, jazz and disco samples, and distinctly Detroit house drum machine beats. The city’s take on disco seems to either play down the exuberance and play up the melancholy, or to create a slight sense of unease by wandering into discordance and harmonic clashes, relishing glaring sample juxtapositions in the same way as vinyl crackle. This is the case here, the songs moving from gently, glowingly meditative to heads-down-lost-in-the-loop, the edges of the samples as fuzzy as the confused chronology created by working arcane disco samples into the futurist house grooves. Essential Detroit deep house.

Pieces

Marcellus Pittman
Pieces cover

The debut album from Detroit’s Marcellus Pittman is a selection of his tracks from the second half of the 2010s, previously only available on vinyl via his Unirhythm label. Pittman’s is one of the forward-facing house producers to come out of Detroit, and the tracks here are full of awkward rhythms, slightly off-balance quantisation, and moments of sonic trickery and audio experimentation where glitches in the audio buckle before locking back in. It’s brooding, glowing deep house where emotion is gently elicited via late-night chords, vinyl crackle and bittersweet melody, but it comes coated in a smooth techno sheen of space-age detachment and a distilled, rarefied synth sound, as though robots were somehow involved in the programming. File under sensuous mesmerising abstract android tech soul.

Norm-a-Lize

Norm Talley
Norm-a-Lize cover

Producer and DJ Norm Talley’s career began with his 1997 debut on fellow-Detroit producer Eddie Fowlkes’s City Boy Label. Twenty years later and Talley dropped a debut album on Omar S’s FXHE label and it’s a strong collection. In contrast to the more out-there musical projects sometimes pursued by the FXHE label boss, Talley’s Norm-A-Lize delivers fourteen club-ready, DJ-friendly underground house tracks. Tally’s brand of Detroit house is founded on raw, rolling, driving drum patterns that have years of lived house music history behind them, and built around tasty little Rhodes hooks, sharp bass riffs and glittering, atmospheric sound beds. From jazz-ish and bouncing, to sci-fi-flavoured and pensive, to that carefully controlled brand of elation that Detroit house does so well, he covers a few moods across the fourteen tracks, always keeping everything dance floor focused.

Sound Sculptures, Vol. 1

Theo Parrish
Sound Sculptures, Vol. 1 cover

Theo Parrish’s third album is a huge collection that takes house music as its lift-off point but which ends up in some very different places indeed. 19 tracks, interspersed with found sound, interludes, and mini soundscapes, it’s an album that is genuinely constantly surprising. There’s beautiful, sophisticated deep house songs, delicate, intricate house/jazz hybrids, retro-disco re-edits, dark, in-your-face dance floor destroyers, tracks that sound as though he’s opened them up so we can somehow hear their internal skeletons, and others that flit in and out of focus like ghostly impressions of lost songs. Confounding expectations of what contemporary electronic dance music should sound like at every turn, Detroit house at its most intriguing.

Euphonium the Album

Patrice Scott
Euphonium the Album cover

Nearly ten years into his career, Detroit producer and DJ Patrice Scott released his first album, fifty-four minutes of his particular brand of thick, murky, futuristic deep house and techno. Scott’s music has moved far from house’s disco/new wave/boogie roots, and this album is made of detailed sound design, analogue-sounding bleeps and drones, cinematic backdrops that conjure up all kinds of hard-to-define moods, and controlled, tight, efficient drum tracks. There are no vocals and the timbres are all synthetic with no signs of any ‘real’ instruments; instead this is the music of electricity and digital 1s and 0s, machines and computer programs pulled into expressing mood and creating groove.

An Odyssey

Delano Smith
An Odyssey cover

It was a long journey for Chicago-born Detroit-raised DJ producer Delano Smith, from the beginnings of his music career in the late 70s DJing with Detroit house Godfather Ken Collier, to the 2012 release of his debut album. An Odyssey is almost all 4/4 dance floor tracks, based on heavyweight but precise drum tracks that manage to sound both crispy and raw, and smooth and slick at the same time. Smith’s version of house music is very Detroit with techno futurism running through it, the relentless 4/4 kick drum pulse pretty much the only vestige of the disco music it evolved from. The grooves feel machine-tooled, cool and collected, interlocking perfectly with the subtle bass tones, interstellar synth chords and metallic-sounding synth leads that make up his sound. Quietly confident, groove-factor-10 deep house.

Dark Ascension

Rick Wade
Dark Ascension cover

A decade after his first 12” release on his Harmonie Park label, prolific and influential Detroit house producer Rick Wade released his debut album in 2004. It’s a well-named album, taking a minimal, low-key approach to the deep house template. There’s not many big peaks and troughs or builds and breaks here, instead he programs solid arrangements that are purely dance floor focused, creating slow burn, nocturnal, underground jams that do indeed provide a sense of ascension, and with a definite dark atmosphere. The first two tracks expertly meld live instrumentation and percussion into, respectively, a Bossa nova and a samba-influenced house track, each partly retro, partly futurist, but the titles of the next two tracks — “Grimm” and “Cold Space” — signal the eerie, mournful mood he explores for the rest of the album. Almost entirely devoid of any vocals and made purely from synthetic elements, the tracks are covered in a highly reflective sheen and imbued with a low-level lonely, yearning atmosphere that embodies the spirit, if not the thud or intensity, of Detroit techno.

Rhythm Exposed

Alton Miller
Rhythm Exposed cover

Alton Miller’s Detroit house credentials are impeccable: a DJ in the city back in the 80s, co-founder of short-lived but seminal Music Institute club in ‘88, and a well-respected musician and producer. His Rhythm Exposed album is a polished and accomplished collection of mostly house music with a handful of broken beat/soul-jazz tracks. Miller’s particular approach to the house template is bright, inviting and highly melodic, with little sign of that classic Detroit post-industrial-dystopian-malaise. Instead, the tracks, which sound mostly either programmed or played rather than sampled, are based around intricately arranged drum tracks enlivened with Miller’s custom conga rhythms, accompanied by gentle synth washes, jazzy keys, neat and tidy bass lines and clean and tight production. An accomplished example of the smoother, slicker end of Detroit house that is very much in touch with the city’s soul music tradition.

Tragedies of a Plastic Soul Junkie

Terrence Parker
Tragedies of a Plastic Soul Junkie cover

Producer and DJ Terrance Parker’s debut album arrived in 1996 like a breath of cool, fresh air across a crowded dance floor, an album of unashamedly devotional piano house, jazzy broken beat and instrumental hip hop. The uptempo tracks — “You Can Do It” andWelcome 2 Southfield” are particular stand-outs — are sharp, sparkling, disco-fied, relentless, rolling Detroit house, while album opener “The Emancipation of My Soul” begins life as a down-tempo dreamy Ibiza chill-out track before speeding up into an exemplar of Parker’s uplifting piano house sound. Alternating between club-aimed house music and more dreamy, inward-looking downtempo/hip hop/soul, the album feels a little like a soundtrack, its individual songs hanging together as part of a larger whole.

Too Many Classics (To Be Left With Little or No Protection)

Mike Huckaby
Too Many Classics (To Be Left With Little or No Protection) cover

Seven tracks of purest distilled Detroit deep house from one of the city’s major proponents, this collection, released in 2017, was actually DJ, producer, engineer, and music educator Mike Huckaby’s first album, despite a production career that began back in 1995 with his debut on fellow Detroit-er Rick Wade’s Harmonie Park label. This collection, released on Huckaby’s own Deep Transportation label, collects and remasters some of his finest mid-90s house tunes. 

The sound is the clean, efficient, underground deep house of mid-90s Detroit, based around inherently in-the-pocket grooves, the rhythm tracks constructed of endless variations of 4/4 kick drums, sparking, shuffling hi-hats, and sharp-edged claps and snares. Huckaby’s flavour of house — as befits someone steeped in Detroit’s electronic music history — was sophisticated and restrained, with jazz-inflected chords, spacey sound beds, and relentless rolling rhythms. Essential mid-90s Detroit deep house.

Andrés

Andrés
Andrés cover

Humberto Hernandez aka Andrés’ 2003 debut on Kenny Dixon Jr.’s Mahogani Music label is a semi-anthology of his musical career to date since his ’97 debut (on Dixon’s other label KDJ), and with KDJ getting a production credit too there’s plenty of his distinctive fuzzy, hazy, atmospheric production aesthetic. It’s Detroit deep house of the disco-derived, tripped out, crackling sample, gritty-yet-smooth, inviting-yet-aloof variety. Hernandez keeps the tracks really short; of the nine, three are under three minutes, five under four with only one creeping above five minutes, and this, together with the shifting, collage nature of the music creates the effect of listening to a radio station switching between Detroit’s musical past and future.

Just Ask the Lonely

Omar S
Just Ask the Lonely cover

The first album from Detroit house DJ and producer Omar S, released on his FXHE label in 2005, was a bold debut. His single releases of the previous couple of years had demonstrated his ability to produce that particular Detroit brand of dusty/sparkling disco-house, as well as more synth-led, stark, techno-flavoured house too, and he further explored this stripped-back, rarified, synthetic side of his music on this album. Building most of the tracks from what often seems like little more than minimalist, sharp, well-defined percussion parts, a single mono synth riff and some FX, it’s edgy, purist machine funk with no extras, no additional ornamentation or any pretence. House music for dark basements at 4am.

The Godson & Soul Edge

Rick Wilhite
The Godson & Soul Edge cover

Released in 2010, this is a compilation of Detroit house from 96-99 from influential Detroit producer remixer and DJ Rick Wilhite, with the inclusion of remixes from fellow Detroit housers Moodymann, Theo Parrish and Sherard Ingram under his Urban Tribe guise. It’s that mid-90s thick, heavy, gritty, dusty, narcotic strand of Detroit house, that comes with an edginess, the rough edges of old soul, disco and R’n’B samples rubbing up against each other, the deliberate key clashes of completing audio snippets ignored, celebrated even. The audio is fuzzy and smeared and the grooves have a psychedelic air, a twistedness to the disco re-workings, as though they’re somehow imbued with some of the infamous Detroit post-industrial melancholy, even as they sparkle with disco delight.

Fantasy

K-Hand
Fantasy cover

This 1998 album was Kelley ‘K-Hand’ Hand’s fifth since her ’95 debut. It’s a DJ/clubber album, Detroit house all the way across its ten songs, with not one ambient interlude or ill-advised drum & bass experiment, just straight-up 4/4 electronic dance music. Drums are a defining feature of every dance/electronic music genre and K-Hand’s beats are highly functional, expertly produced, dance-floor-ready layers of shuffling hi-hats, conga loops, drum machine rhythms, and the arrangements, like the drums, are constructed to function on the underground dance floors of late 90s Detroit, so there’s hardly any breakdowns, and certainly no epic build-ups, just heads-down grooves: this is music that celebrates the loop and relishes the gradual reveal. The inclusion of the entire 8:34 12” version of “Low Key” demonstrates Detroit’s take on Chicago house, the jazzy Rhodes keys are pure Chicago house, the never-resolving synth pads so very Detroit techno. Just one of many high-quality albums from a much-missed Detroit artist.

From the Dirt

Waajeed
From the Dirt cover

Detroit producer and DJ Waajeed began his musical life as a DJ and producer for hip hop outfit Slum Village before moving into house music. This ten-track album from 2018, released on his Dirt Tech Reck label is his fourth, although it’s his first house album. You get ten tracks of expertly put-together Detroit house music, four vocal tracks and six instrumentals, and it’s almost as though he decided to show the range of sub-genres he can turn his hand to. “Too Afraid” featuring Lulu recalls Terrance Parker’s skippy semi-religious piano house jams, “After You Left” and “I Aint Safe” featuring Ideeyah are both smooth, gently glowing dreamlike deep house, “Power In Numbers” is stripped back, gritty Chicago-style house, “Make It Happen” featuring CJay Hill is buoyant soulful/R’n’B house, “Things About You” is a highly orchestrated soaring disco pastiche. A classy, vibrant and sparkling collection of accessible, dance floor-focused late-2010s Detroit house, you can file this album in a Detroit musical sweet spot somewhere between Terrance Parker’s church-soaked gospel-esque tracks, the smooth soul-house of Alton Miller and the heavyweight dance floor dynamics of Rick Wade.