Tevo Howard, Crystal Republic


Artwork by Christian Faur

[Hour House Is Your Rush]


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When I think of adjectives to describe acid (the music), words spring to mind that could just as easily describe acid (the solution): “Harsh,” “coruscating” or “abrasive,” all words I associate with the fierce 303s of Phuture, Sleezy D’s “I’ve Lost Control,” Mike Ink, Dr Walker, Unit Mobeius or more recently, Legowelt and Bunker Records. Rare is the track written with a 303 drum-machine that merits the descriptive tag “beautiful” or “graceful.” Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard are among the talented few who have achieved this (the latter with the peerless mega-hit “Sun Can’’t Compare” a couple years ago), and now Tevo Howard joins their illustrious company with his latest doublepack Crystal Republic on the Rush Hour sub-label Hour House Is Your Rush.

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The six tracks on are far trackier than Howard’s previous outings on his own Beautiful Granville Records, and lack both the song-writing nous and indeed singing that marked out his collaborations with his father Rick “Poppa” Howard as minor (key) vocal house classics. Indeed, they have more in common with his previous release on HHIYR “Move,” which was packaged with “Original” and “Acid” mixes of the same track. Opener and title track “Crystal Republic” starts with a DJ friendly minute of acid squiggle before introducing a warm synth that reminds one strongly of Patrice Scott. A useful tool for the jock who wishes to take his or her set in a deeper direction. “Data,” in both its “Album” and more, erm, “Long” versions, are extended acid jams with clattering percussion, but also sparkling synths and Howard’s trademark melancholy. “Laboratory” is more languid, riding a pretty, undulating synth line, underpinned by an intermittently trilling acid riff. “Material” mines similar ground, using a chiming melody that for some reason reminds me unmistakably of Heaven 17’s “Geisha Boys and Temple Boys,” although again the 303 line that runs throughout makes this a far more jacking proposition. “The Glass Ceiling” is basically a perfectly reproduced Italo-disco instrumental, but its firm and pushing drumbeat and keening synth melody contains the kernel of truth best encapsulated in the title of the Peanuts’ book: happiness is a sad song.

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My Eighties references for these last two tracks demonstrate the criticisms that you might have heard about Howard’s music — that it is too retro, that it remembers a bygone era a little too fondly. There is perhaps some degree of merit to these arguments; but for me, nobody does it better than Tevo, or with more heart and (occasionally amateurish) sincerity. Crystal Republic lacks a stand-out track of the quality of “Everyday House Music” or “Without Me” but nonetheless doesn’t disappoint the high expectations associated with seeing his name on a record. This is acid, but not as we know it. “Beautiful” and “graceful” indeed.

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