Life affirming, god-like music that captures everything that house can do to one’s mind, body and souuuuuul.
The late 80s and early 90s were a period of new expressionism within house music. The classic Chicago era had given way to a global sensation, as the genre dominated the airwaves, propped up the charts and went from just a few clubs in the underground to all over the world. Suddenly, the environments and attitudes towards the genre morphed into something new, and with it, came many exciting new developments. The style of good ol’ jackin gave way to a new breed of producers, who would become heavyweights in their own rights. Not just in Chicago, but within all the new scenes that cropped up around the earth, from Manchester to Berlin to Italy to South Africa and back again. The 90s style focused on a more progressive and overall emotionally developmental approach; whereas 80s stylings were more about immersing yourself in the high paced groove, the 90s leaned more towards the deeper spectrum, where more drawn out compositions allowed for subtle moments and textures to blow minds, on the dance floor and at home. Both styles have awesome merits, and it is wonderful to listen to the two styles together, as a reminder of how genres can always adapt to new surroundings, and change to embrace the future. We can always eat up more of these tunes, as continual revivals of styles and techniques mean the two eras will forever be relevant.
Litia~Loe certainly made their mark around this fluid transition point, where the emergence of 90s stylings were taking hold, and classique Chicago was beginning to rest for a while. The group released just two EPs on Facade Records, the one we are reviewing today, along with 1989’s ‘Each Dawn Every Dawn’. And with both records, you can sense a group with a real sense of purpose, as if their method of crafting tunes really meant something. And it truly does. Their method of concocting grooves was from the club, where they soaked up all the vibes of the 1980s, where Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles and others would spin all manner from across the spectrum. They would immediately go home and begin experimenting with sounds and synth patches, looking to lock into the experience they had just gone through. Their 1989 debut was a powerful blend of intoxicating rhythms, hi hats and kicks, meshed together with deep and eerie chord sequences, and a series of beautiful vocal performances that paired the dread of it all with the hope of it all. Theres a very sophisticated feel to it, the vocal work very much reminds one of New Beat singing styles, where vocalists would often move between two tones and deliveries, almost crafting a highly visualised narrative out of their words. This comes across within their message, a story of inner city malice and dread, that seems a far cry from the messages of hope and togetherness that permeated through the Chicago house sound. Struggling with internal pressures, along with the fierce competition for DJ slots, meant the group dropped off their ouputs, with their next effort coming in 1994.
‘Life Love Dance’ is a wonderful statement made by a group with a lot of significant things to say, be it through their compositions or through their words. The record is an intoxicating melding together of all the best from the Chicago era, alongside sensibilities that permeated from only the finest selections of 90s house releases. Their move into the record feels very natural, as they set their template of uniqueness very wide from their previous release. Only now they allow themselves to find their expression within a longer EP, where minimal layering give way for longer form ways of bringing through joy and happiness. This is achieved through a loose yet very thoughtful approach to the various elements of each track, the way it all hangs together as a package just oozes brilliance, painting a picture of a thousand word with each bar and verse. So without further babbling, lets get into this.
Up first comes ‘Thank You’, that begins with some proper heavy duty drumming progressions. It all falls away to introduce the slightest of bass lines, that is then complimented by some little clicky sounding key notes. The drums give way once again, as the vocal comes charging in, expressing some distain for an organisation of some sorts. Another melodic element comes into play, but the instrumentals are really playing along to the beat of the narrative occurring on top. What feels like the pulse of a argument, or someone who just wants to rant about something, it almost feels like some kind of scene being played out for our joys and passions. The guy talked about shaking asses, and thanking people, its all rather frenzied and energetic. Spoken word never seemed so hyped and up there, the beat just allowing itself to be overcome by the heighten passioned behind it all. What an intro! next comes ‘Rush’, and we begin in familiar territories to the previous outing. The bass line feels overly familiar, but the focus here feels more about blending in pads and keys, the drumming feels softer, with more emphasis on the cymbals and hi hats. The vocals slot in perfectly, adding another dynamic range to the melodic elements. The chorus is euphoric, smooth and graceful, as the key change signifies the end. The verse begins more sparse, but builds brilliantly so that the transition into each chorus feels just right. We enter an instrumental break, that shows the full force of all the elements together, before descending once again into the vocal part. Soaring, majestic and ethereal of sorts, it feels angelic, but with this brooding undertone you just cant put your finger in. But its a wonderful thing, that you cannot place it. ‘Whisper To Me’ comes next, and oh boy is this tune something else. A series of keys begin proceedings, as the bass line moves and grooves underneath, looking to peak its head above the clouds, the drums quietly building in the background. Then, the drums drop, and the bass shows off what its all about, hammering away to the chords on top. Simply masterful. By the time the vocals come in, again slotting in at just the right moment, at just the right tone, we are already hooked into everything this track has to offer. As the vocals begin their final line of the verse, the synths swell and swell and swell, to a point where we imagine they might just reside on their new plane of existence. The track then moves into its full workout, where the vocals become more dense, complimenting the increased layering of synths and the more intense drumming patterns. Jesus, what a track. A delicate and powerful blend of the contemporary with the classic, made very much in the classic era.
Next comes ‘Peep Show’, and we are once again welcomed by some serious grooves. The track has a wonderful haziness to it, moving between the lines with fluidity and grace, with vocals retained for moments that make our hearts well and spirits soar with pleasure. The soft keys compliment the soft drumming style, that includes more emphasis on the tender cymbals and little notes that permeate and shine through the mist of textual excellence. The vocal work reminds us of tentative conversations with those we trust, almost like a softly spoken lament, that remains with us for a lifetime. This track could be the sound to many a context and experience, blessing us with its infinite wisdom and sombre message. Be kind, be brave, be soft with each other. Next comes the instrumental of ‘Whisper To Me’, and what else needs to be mentioned about this track? without the vocals it remains just as powerful, the transitions more obvious and glaring, but in many ways, both versions remain true to themselves, and sing from the same sheet. The vocal work in the other version is so excellent, its hard to not imagine the lyrics as you bob your head along to this absolute classic. To finish things up, we have ‘Rush (Come Get Some)’, that contains a rework of the previously mentioned version. The drums retain their presence, with more of an emphasis on 90s inspired key work, such as the deep singular bass kick, along with some proper soaring pads and swirling noises that just add continued textures to proceedings. The vocals are paired back to focus primarily on singular lines and words, rather than the larger focus on their impact from the previous version. All the while, like with ‘Whisper To Me’, this is one of the same, allowing for us to delve deeper into the mindset of a group who took their time to craft very out there and very brilliant pieces of house music, tunes that will surely reverb through time.
What can be taken away from this listening experience? well, for one, we hear and listen to house in a new light. A light that shines so bright we close our eyes, intent on listening to the tracks and the inner workings of the minds behind it. We indulge in its tender and textured beauty, living in the messages spoken by both the words and the instruments. Everything gets said throughout this record, from the considered drumming patterns, to the beautiful sonicness of the keys, that pack a punch for something so soft. This is house music, but for the mind and the senses. We extend beyond the dance floor to new places, where we unlock doors and relish the chance to understand. Records like this one help us achieve this, in more ways than one.
Check out their discography here:
Their first single, ‘Each Dawn Every Dawn’, has been reissued recently by Mixed Signals/left Ear Records, and can be purchased here: