Jacob - Misunderstood (Nite Life Collective, 1998)
Deep groovy jazzy house done in the most compelling and original way on this endlessly brilliant release from the elusive producer that is Jacob.
The end of the 90s sure was an interesting time for house music, and many could argue that it had reached its third significant reincarnation by this point. Following on from the origins of Chicago House, through to the deep and dream house renaissance of the early 90s, through to the ghetto, hard house and tech house genres that would flourish in the middle part of the decade, by the latter part of the decade we had experienced so many booms and flourishings across the globe, little incarnations of the genre to accord with developing local scenes and club orientated environments. This was fuelled in some ways by the constant reimagining and reinventions that occurred within the hearts and minds of producers across the globe, where people would feel inspired to craft their own visions and thoughts into little slices of heaven. In turn, many many labels would surface during these times, servicing local demand for freshness via the release of records that would fit within their ideology for soundscapes and groove, and within the realms of house it was no different. Labels would cater for the dancers, the harder hitters that would make the dancefloor shake, or those concerned with the depths and scale of dynamic sound, where listeners wanted to think and groove simultaneously, or the labels that seemingly combined the two, pairing evocative melodic progressions with beats that swayed right through you and into the walls surrounding you. The pulse developed by the deep house community during the late 80s and 90s did a fantastic job at crafting and nurturing the formula of a sub genre that has become beloved by many over the years, with its ability to move minds and transcend beyond mortal realms a real plus with listeners, but in turn many were able to demonstrate its ability to grow and expand within its own defined parameters. Time and time again, excellent deep house orientated grooves would showcase producers wizardry with the keys, their abilities to weave hypnotic melodic sequences around intoxicating beats becoming the norm and soundtrack to many peoples lives and nights out. It allowed for the dreamers to escape and absorb, whilst the groovers were happy to move to it til the end of time, and this balance was perfected in many ways during the 90s. And the wonderful thing was that with each producer who inhibited this world, they all looked to spin their own take on these ideals, incorporating their own signature chord progressions and note lines into proceedings, crafting little worlds within each release, and providing house music lovers with a dazzling array of releases and artists to pick from. Truly it is a never ending pool to get involved in, a journey through time that will leave you feeling enriched and nourished by all the goodness on show.
Nite Light Collective were certainly one of those labels that looked to grow and develop their own sound, and contained within their discography is a huge number of superb releases that surely represent the very best that the late 90s had to offer. The house music found within delves around the fine line between funk, jazz and deep house, with each release highlighting the creative force behind it, with an ever evolving soundscape style that explores these dynamics and the relationships between the elements. The pairing of looser styles on top of tried and tested house features crafts a real sense of vitality within the music, a sense that the cuts were all recorded live and in one take, and that magic is all captured and found within all the releases on this wonderful label. The kind of music that aligns itself with the soul, its intrinsic deepness never getting lost or passing the listener by, simply attaching itself to us in the most positive way possible, developing a bond that will forever resonate with us, and with each listen simply reinforcing itself within our hearts and minds. The label, active from 97 - 07 and based in Chicago, has some incredible records to be found within, with producers such as Paul Johnson, Boo Williams, Glenn Underground, Roy Davis Jr & Peven Everett, Vick Lavender, Gene Hunt, Brian Harden, Mike Saxon and many more popping up, and that along should spur any deep house fans interest, with some of our favourite releases including the superb debut record, the compilation 'Nite Life Collective | Sounds Of The Windy City', which arrived in 97; the wickedly groovy 'Disco Juice' record, courtesy of B.M.C, that arrived in 1998; the brilliant 'Inner Instincts' debut LP from Brian Harden; the incredible Moon Man release 'Love In Me', which is perhaps some of Boo William's finest works; the unstoppable 'A Story of Deepness' from the master Glenn Underground; the emotional rollercoaster that is 'P.M' Blues', by Vick Lavender, with all these releases arriving in 1998 too; the stompin' groover that is the 'Reincarnation' EP from Tim Harper; the always excellent Roy Davis Jr & Peven Everett and their 'Don't You Dare Stop Loving' release; the brilliant 'Lake Shore Drive' release from Mike Saxon; the equally amazing 'The Next Stage' record from Gene Hunt; and finally, the Naked Soul EP 'So Happy', that features Curt Harmon and just oozes feel and emotion, with all these records arriving in 1999. All in all, the class and sophistication that exudes from the label's discography is second to none, with the poise and craftsmanship injected into each release something to behold and fall in love with. But it's the endless manner in which each producer looks to express themselves, with such wonderful contrasts in the manner of composition and sound, the nature of the instrumentations and progressions constantly on the move, creating a world view for sound thats both bold, expansive and emotional all rolled into one. Its deep house at its most distinguished, groovy and balanced, with all the expertise that you would expect from such a powerhouse collection of producers and musicians. Its well worth your time to get to know this extraordinary label and all the incredible producers who have featured on it.
So now we turn our attentions to the record we will be reviewing today, perhaps our absolute favourite from the label, the 'Misunderstood' EP from Jacob. On discogs, the producer only released this one EP, with no other information relating to a proper name or alias, with only the music left to speak for itself (we can perhaps assume its an unofficial alias perhaps of Boo Williams or Glenn Underground, maybe?!). And holy shit, is the music something else entirely. If Jacob did indeed only release this one record, then its a holy slab of gold, with just the most superb melodic work layered and layered into some of the absolute finest late 90s house you will ever heard. Groovy to the point of no return, deep as the cavernous depths of the ocean floor, soulful to the point of ecstasy, its one of those records that makes you pause and ponder for a minute or two, so true is its staying power and quality. So without further delay, lets get into it!
Up first comes the title track, and we begin with the drumming pattern interwoven with the bass, and the initial melodic progression laid on top. The electric piano does this wonderful upward scale, moving between the beats with ease, and after just one sequence we get into it fully, with an additional high line bass line added, along with a two chord sequence added into to frame all the goodness. We move through this part and into the less dense sequence, with the 2 chord structure retained, with the introduction of a beautiful solid key solo floating above proceeding with such meaning and emotion. The song floats along in perfect motion, its movement and feel coming across so wonderfully, with the key solo rising higher and higher, keeping us on our toes in relation to engagement. By this point in time, we are truly hooked indeed, our hearts and minds moving with the ebbs and flows of the song, as it gently graces us with the lightest of breezes, the smoothest of touches. The backdrop begins to populate itself with varying elements, as the track transitions between beatless sections and melodic sections with ease, its fluidity matched by the quality and depth of the melodic features, crafting a world we really want to get to know. Its all the little elements and features that begin to populate the track in varying sections, they all work to keep the momentum going of the track, and how it gets pulled off. What an opener. Up next comes 'The Garden Of Jazz', and here we have arguably our favourite, and the perhaps the best track on the record. The track opens with the beat and chord structure already established, with the key solo once more adding that extra level of niceness, before grooving into the main structure of the track, with the bass line adding dynamism underneath it all. The guitar riff adds enormously, leading the way for the melodic structures to swing and move with the times, with all the layers working over time to craft something truly mesmerising. You quickly become immersed within the tracks bottomless depths, its features combining so effectively in nurturing the tracks development and our attachments to it. The key line solo rises high once more, before leading into a jazzy breakdown, with the chords tinkering away through the mid section with meaning and feeling, the chordal stabs in the backdrop crafting further hypnotic feels, our growing involvement in it all just so strong by this point. This track is fucking brilliant, on so many levels, and we couldn't praise it any more. Just give it a listen, you know the drill.
Up next comes 'In The Mood', and we begin in a profoundly emotional landscape once more. The chord structure remains in the backdrop for now, with the solid chord driving right in the backdrop, the rising key solo floating above proceedings, the bass line slapping underneath with meaning and groove. The transition into the next section is quite something, with the house beat becoming more rhythmically dynamic, as the chords chime away right in front of us, as the track recedes in a sense before building itself up, with the second transition into the full on melodic onslaught. The groove evolves once more, providing the bedrock for the chords to really shine on strong with all their beauty and majesty, before the track once more takes a swing into the more groove laden section. This section does its magic, before moving back into the main hook part, so full bodied and dripping with energy and forward momentum, which then passes back into a more informal section, with Jacob doing all manner of things to push the song onwards, before one final run through the key chordal progression, and by this point we are fully on board with wherever this track wants to go. Superb, beyonds words. To finish up, we have 'Don't Break My Heart', and we begin in familiar territories once more. The drum beat is very up front, the melodic sequence doing much to push things forward with ease and meaning, and as the bass line chimes in we are fully locked in and immersed. The delightful key solo that weaves its way out on top adds that little bit extra to proceedings, which keeps popping up on occasion when it sees fit to add something special to the track. The drum beat has been quietly evolving within this track, its ever changing nature signalling the switches in melodic structures that persist above, allowing the track to transition into some truly special moments, particularly when the melodic fullness opens up. The addition of extra chords and the deep swelling chords just add enormously, and as the track then transitions back into its original incarnation, the jazz key solo makes itself known once more, continuing to add diversity and flavour. Needless to say, but its a truly magical journey through the realms of perfected jazz house, and as the full melodic section comes back round once more, its just another perfect set of moments on an album filled to the brim with such class, such meaning and purpose. Truly remarkable across the board.
This record has many moments on it that take your breath away, and even though the stylings of the music remains fairly consistent across the board, each track gives over a new side to the dynamics that Jacob is looking to push. Each tune presents a different side to the relationship between chordal arrangements, free flowing solos and drums, with moments of true genius and craftsmanship spread out across four cuts of deep intrinsic beauty. From a label that contains so much goodness, this release is the cream of the crop, a true triumph of jazz house that stands alongside the very best the genre has to offer. Who knows if Jacob released more music? or if its an alias? in any ways, this record remains a truly iconic release within its genre, and the music within will keep speaking for itself for generations to come. A bona fide solid gold classic.
You can check out the release, and purchase (for a remarkably good price) here: