Art by Neil Farber
Raise your hand if you saw this one coming: a tech-house appropriation of Maya Angelou’s classic poem “Phenomenal Woman.” Oh, nobody? In the long run, however, it’s not much of a surprise given Seth Troxler’s predilection for 12″ curveballs. If his output in the past twelve months is any indication, picking up a Troxler cut without peeping it first is a bit like playing one of those mechanical claw games at the state fair — you had the same odds of taking home the elegant sensuality of “Love Never Sleeps” as you did the siren-wail abrasion of “Aggression”. How Seth got it in his head to give the club treatment to the revered poet laureate is anybody’s guess, but the crazy thing is, it works. And if you grasp this in its radical-ness, you’ll understand one principle of dance music innovation: as long as the booty-moving goes down, use any sound or source material you want, because the ends justify the means.
Done effectively, club music absorption of a well-known sample should expose something new in it, and true enough it’s remarkable how well the twists and turns of Angelou’s poetic cadence fit Troxler’s polished, spare house groove. What’s more, not only does Angelou’s paean to feminine charms find the dance floor a fitting place to put its theory into practice, insofar as it’s largely a catalog of minor anatomical delights, it’s also not that hard to make the rhetorical substitution of woman for track. Instead of advancing the cult of the woman, Maya could very well be praying at the temple of the beat. Imagine one last verse, where after “It’s in the arch of my back / the sun of my smile / the ride of my breasts,” she would say “it’s in the throb of my kick… the pulse of my bass… the flicker of my stereo-panned conga sample….”
On the flip, Troxler’s remix of Nicolas Jaar’s “The Student” is a heady delight after your ears have been primed by “Aphrika”s wonky audacity. Troxler’s production skills, which understandably take a bit of back seat on the A-side to the full-bodied vocal, are manifest here in their usual impressive form. Thudding and smacking noises abound here one wonders if he gets his drum patches from field recordings of billiard parlors or bowling alleys. Overhead, a moody, tumbling piano line unfolds in suspended Satie-like clusters while hi-hats and live kit samples build an expressive, jazz-tinged groove — a good soundtrack should Wong Kar Wai ever shoot one of his elegantly melancholic films at Fabric. If you take this release and stand it next to Troxler’s recent stunning Ibiza Voice podcast, comprised solely of new and forthcoming Wolf + Lamb material, you’ve got reason enough to believe that both artist and label are geared for a banner year.