Illustration by Benjamin Marra
Few contemporary producers elicit unqualified, borderline worshipful praise quite like Theo Parrish. The mere mention of his name is enough to cause the eyes of house-heads to glaze over as they exhale the longest, most reverent “Ohhhhhh, dude” imaginable. The cynic in you refuses to believe that any producer, let alone one working today, could live up to this sort of breathlessness, but Parrish — now well into the second decade of his discography — consistently does. I often wonder if his sounding like practically no one else is a function of him understanding house better than practically everyone else: whether in the slow shuffle of his Sound Signature 12″s or the unbridled eclecticism of his legendary DJ sets, Parrish commits to the groove with a warmth, adventurousness, and veritable taxonomy of influences that makes him the standard-bearer for so many of us who love this music. I could keep talking about Theo for the next three days, but I haven’t mentioned Billy Love’s new doublepack for Sound Signature yet, and I’m pretty sure my eyes are starting to glaze over.
Given the feelings elucidated above, it’s unfortunate but inevitable and probably not a huge tragedy that Billy Love’s latest, the four-sided Melloghettomental, will be discussed as a new Theo Parrish record. As Love, born William Beaver, showed on the Rotating Assembly’s classic “Seasons Of My Life,” dude can carry a tune soulfully and dependably, all the while sounding like not much more than a stand-in for Stevie Wonder. But I’m not sure you’d want a more distinctive voice vying for your attention when faced with such sublime instrumentals. Melloghettomental is billed as a collaboration, but Love’s voice just feels like another instrument in Parrish’s orchestra. Judged as a collection of Theo Parrish productions, Melloghettomental is one-quarter exceptional, one-quarter excellent, and one-half not bad. A-side “Can’t Keep Running Away” is the unabashed stunner. Love’s voice recedes relatively far into the background amid Parrish’s slowly modulating drums and minimalist piano chords. It’s far more straightforward and emotive than Parrish’s recent bassbin-rattling remix of LCD Soundsystem’s “45:33″ or the ultra-grim “Major Moments Of Instant Insanity,” but it’s no less ambitious. For me, “Can’t Keep Running Away” slots perfectly with vintage Theo Parrish and on its own justifies the price of this set.
The doublepack’s mid-section, “U Bring Me Up” and “Why Wait,” feels a touch average by Parrish’s standards. “U Bring Me Up” suffers from lack of focus or inventiveness, with Love’s vocals and Parrish’s arrangement feeling lost among each other. Bouncy and uptempo for Theo, “Why Wait” could only use to run on a bit longer: the tart Rhodes, loping and awesomely irregular percussion, and some of the set’s best vocal work end far too abruptly for how good they are. The title cut returns Parrish and Love to form. Sultry and stoney, “Melloghettomental” finds the duo at their sexiest, heaviest, and maybe poppiest. While it fails to reach the heights of Parrish’s greatest doublepack, Parallel Dimensions, Melloghettomental is compelling enough to keep both longtime followers and casual fans “ohhhhhh, dude”-ing ’til sunrise.