Rick Wade, Intelligence

[Laid]


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“Intelligence” is not a word that comes up often in house music. In this context, it almost seems like a challenge; this record wasn’t titled for “Soul” or “Sex,” or any of the other social concepts excessively invoked in dance discourse. Though an intellectual emphasis is unusual, it shouldn’t be a surprise; this EP is the inaugural release for Laid, a vinyl-only subsidiary of Hamburg’s reliable Dial, and features music by lesser-known Detroit heavy Rick Wade. Founders Lawrence and Carsten Jost have made Dial’s name synonymous with a style of house that is both cerebral and emotional, without sacrificing its danceability. It’s a style, like much of today’s best house music, that is deeply indebted to Rick Wade. Though Wade arguably kicked off the contemporary deep house sound with 1994 releases on his own Harmonie Park label, you’ll have a hard time finding original pressings of his classic records, any of his mixes for download, or more than a couple interviews with him. Fortunately, Rush Hour, Funky Chocolate, and Wade’s own Harmonie Park have been steadily reissuing some of his best work, and Laid 001 should only confirm his presence in house music’s Dancehall of Fame with three typically soulful, sexy, and yes, intelligent tracks.

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Wade often talks about his interest in anime, and is himself an animator working on his first feature. There is an appropriately cinematic feel to much of his work, with its dramatic, swooping strings and dynamic textural shifts. Consider the sci-fi narration by Morgan Freeman (from forgotten Spielberg vehicle War of the Worlds) on lead off track “Ricky’s Groove.” As he describes an alien civilization observing Earth, the haunting melody and soft shrieking noise effectively evoke an extraterrestrial atmosphere; imagine that green babe taking William Shatner by the hand and leading him to the hippest club in Alpha Centauri. However, anime and science fiction are not the only genres relevant to Wade’s music; the influence of 70’s blaxploitation is more than apparent. Though this seems to be one of the few Rick Wade records not to have a track with the word “pimp” in the title, “The D” more than makes up for it with its chiming Rhodes vamp, funky bass line, and forlorn trumpet riff. Like many of Wade’s best tracks, it would fit perfectly in a soundtrack for Shaft On Mars. The title track keeps the sci-funk vibe going, with a twisting chromatic chord progression and trippy effects that never obscure the propulsive beat. This is a record that lives up to its description, maintaining a standard that has characterized the output of both Rick Wade and Dial Records. These tracks will keep a dancer’s feet moving, but they’ll keep a listener’s synapses firing too.

Greg Swindle  on August 1, 2009 at 10:22 AM

Good, accurate review. I got this last week and I love the cinematic feel of “Ricky’s Groove.”

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