Available on: Rush Hour LP/box-set

Following last year’s reissue of Virgo, the awesome 1989 Chicago House album by Eric Lewis and Merwyn Saunders, Rush Hour has raided the duo’s archives for this collection of unreleased demos recorded between 1984 and 1990.

The 15 tracks on this CD (with twice as many to follow on vinyl) were selected from “hundreds” that never saw the light of day because of “local record business politics and disinterest”. Which goes to show that the music biz can be clueless, because there are some real gems here. The breathy carnality of ‘Sex’ (“everybody wants it, everybody needs it”) is a lost house classic, replete with bittersweet synth strings, a bassline it’s impossible not to move to and the space to let the groove breathe that’s probably as much to do with the primitivism of the equipment as any conscious attempt to avoid clutter. Whatever, it works a treat.

‘Let the Music Play’ has the jazzy adventurousness of Larry Heard at his best, keyboards meandering over a jump-up 4/4 groove, vocals like a lullaby and a deep, sharp bassline breakdown. Overall, it shows that house could be so much more interesting when people were still working out what it was, rather than adhering to a production formula.

On ‘Moskaw’, Virgo Four phase the beat to sound like a runaway steam train (perhaps inspired by Telex’s ‘Moskow Diskow’ – hence the title?); one of those effects that can absolutely blow away a dancefloor when dropped at the right time. Combined with a simple acid bassline, the result is delicious, but if ‘Moskaw’ is pure sensation, then ‘It’s a Crime’ shows the conscious side of the duo’s work, a piano led song about the effects of criminality that blends the local (“It’s a crime, gotta go on the ground”) with the global (“nations war, babies crying, people hungry, mommas dying”). File alongside ‘It’s All Right’ – it’s good enough to sit in that exalted company.

Not everything on Resurrection reaches those heights however. Tracks such as ‘White Smoke’ and ‘The Mop’ sound too much like what they are – demos – thin and lacking direction. In fact, probably one third of the CD could comfortably have been left in the Virgo Four archives without the world missing anything crucial. As any good producer knows, sometimes less is more.

A world without ‘Boing’ or ‘Forever Yours’ however, would be a poorer one indeed. The latter has everything that makes Chicago house great – prowling bass, plangent synths, piano vamps and soulful vocals without the gymnastics; uplifting with an undercurrent of melancholy. Closing out the set, ‘I have always wanted’ showcases Saunders and Lewis’s drum programming finesse – a deeply funky, polyrhythmic jam whose intense percussion and insistent silk road synths could leave dancers with twisted blood.

Justin Toland



Share Tweet