Chicago Skyway, Wolfgang Hair EP

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Sean Hernandez’s Chicago Skyway project is only three releases deep at this point, but already it seems to have solidified into something quite reliable, purveying clean-cut takes on classic Chicago house without sounding especially derivative. On Wolfgang Hair, Hernandez incorporates a bevy of classic signifiers, though rather than spacing them out from track to track (i.e. one track acid, another deep), he tends to stack them atop one another. Its clubbier pieces draw most of their crowd-pleasing legitimacy from this schizophrenia, but this is also their main pitfall: amid the mood swings, I sometimes find myself searching for an identity. Still, what it lacks in consistency it makes up for in construction, as its low-key highlights are undeniably well-built.

“CP-1” begins meditatively with pitch-stretched percussion and forlorn synths, but soon gains a bounciness from the sudden addition of kicks and vigorous snares. The track becomes increasingly physical as a chugging, acidic arpeggio emerges and the synths drop out, dissolving the initially somber vibe. The juxtaposition between mellow contemplation and heavy dance floor material is somewhat awkward, and the track seems unsure of which direction to take. By contrast, “Confusion” is a minimal, Larry Heard-style piece, floaty and repetitive. Its toned-down percussion is locked in jack-lite mode, while warm washes and a plaintive, miniature melody meld with discordant loops. The aforementioned stylistic schizophrenia is present here, but by gracefully spacing out its elements Hernandez avoids being jarring; he is clearly at his best when the clutter is reduced.

As its title suggests, “Acid” is all about a snaking acid line and intense jacking clatter, both of which are performed admirably. While the line is filtered up and down, percussion and effects erupt around it, climaxing in aggressive laser fire. Fairly stock, but such a frenetic, no-holds-barred approach to acid is laudable. The lightheaded “Glasswerks” closes things out with looping blotches of crystalline tones atop more jacking rhythms. One pre-release description remarked on how apt the title is and I have to agree; it’s a very close audio equivalent to a glass factory, heavy machinery fixed on a delicate craft. Although it’s a bit overloaded, Wolfgang Hair is a worthwhile listen when it pares itself down, and in these brightest spots shows why Chicago Skyway is a name with potential.

harpomarx42  on May 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM

CP-1 is CPrior.

BSU  on May 15, 2010 at 9:09 AM

Acid rocks!

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