Image by Saskia Olde Wolbers
The clichés that exist in dance music are almost as well worn as the ears and bodies that have been moving to its rhythms for over 30 years. There was a time when hearing Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech laced over a 4/4 beat seemed fresh, or when an Apache break used in a drum and bass track was the epitome of forward thinking production, but those days are long gone. To be honest my gag reflex usually kicks in whenever I hear location shout-outs in a track or many other of these frayed, weathered tropes being rehashed for the umpteenth time. H.O.U.S.E., Gerd’s latest on his 4Lux label, looks to have all the makings of one of these types of tracks, with Elbee Bad guiding listeners through a spoken word history on the rudiments of house music. In the hands of many other producers the raw, jacking, Chicago-fueled house cut by Gerd would definitely have fallen into that category, however the Dutch stalwart conjures such a faithful rendition of the style, while the voice of Elbee Bad carries with it the very history of the subject matter, that it is hard to cast these aspersions.
It is interesting to note then that Gerd and Elbee originally made this track back in 1994, re-releasing it now amidst the flurry of revivalist Chicago house serving both as a well-timed sales move and commentary on the true roots of the music. I doubt many would have heard the first issue of the track, but Gerd’s updated “2011 Ruff Dub” keeps things jacking and coarse, reducing down to only the necessary elements, the vintage drum machines and synths performing their crude mechanical workout within the limited confines of their technology. Arttu’s mix is an exemplary piece of unpolished techno, the overblown kick drum and distorted analog synth line on their own creating a killer groove that just keeps building as it is embellished with Mr Bad’s full modulated vocals, hi-hats set to stun, and steel-gloved claps. Jacob Korn also turns in a noteworthy remix, his broad, enveloping house chords adding a certain warmth absent from the other mixes, though that said he manages to keep things pretty tough as well. Neville Watson’s dub, although perfectly competent as a production fails to hit the spot as it lacks the grit and unforced sense of authenticity that is more easily conveyed on the other tracks. Despite this superfluous moment, Gerd & Elbee’s H.O.U.S.E. not only dodges the cliché bullet, but earns its authentic credentials with ease.