Specter / Damon Lamar – For All The Music (Tetrode Music, 2002)
Two of deep house's most enthralling producers take us on a real journey with this excellent joint EP that makes up part of the timeless Tetrode Music label legacy.
Many, many labels exist within their own timeframe and context, content to be a mere footnote in the annuals of music history, whilst others persist and forge a audial reputation that to this day sounds phenomenal and instantly invigorating. The quality of labels always resides in the notion of the creative passions of those behind it, their goals and desires embodied in the outputs that remain there for all those who come across it to either connect or not with the music they pushed. However, this rarely happens when you get to know a label where it is very clear indeed that the heads behind the music had a brilliance about them, in that the music they released had a sense of its contents and was able to wow those not just at the time, but to this very day. This occurs when the ambition of the label was one of expanse and technical excellence bound together by a vision which expanded beyond their realms and into others, touching and soft in its embrace but deeply thought provoking in its nature and feel, inviting people into the world they have meticulously put together. Labels that have this kind of power over people often have smaller outputs than those who really pushed the House sound in the 90s, when the genre was booming in popularity, and instead looked inwards to their family of creators as a means to nurture the core identity of the label, an insistence on growing the grooves within rather than spreading too far and too wide. This ambition serves the label very well indeed, allowing a continual inward focus to grow the foundations of the sound but also providing the people behind it an outlay for their sound to develop too, in turn drawing more people to the flock via their well honed and beautifully refined sound. We become drawn to the consistency of excellence but also to the potential that dwells within the music, an exciting prospect that keeps going on strong due to the continual sense of what might come next, what kind of journey will we be going on next, what will be the new evolution of the sound. When it comes to House music, there are a few labels going that continue to uphold their legacy to this day, in terms of how their musical outputs during their previous context impacted on those around them but also how that sound fits in with todays contemporary landscape. The genre has evolved significantly since the 80s and 90s when the foundations were forged, with many returning back to the roots of it all to draw power from the essences that flowed from these labels, with their importance now shining through perhaps brighter than ever. The links and inspiration they provide means that their legacy will forever be cemented in stone, time infinitum, the vibrations and identity sending waves of goodness through the annuals of history, forever confirmed as music which we use to fuel our emotions and to inspire us to create and nurture.
If its quality, emotional gain, and a undeniable timelessness that you are after, then look absolutely no further than the Tetrode Music imprint, a Chicago based House label founded by producers Damon Peterson and Andres Ordonez in the mid 90s. Both producers began recording music in a similar vein around the time the label was formed, with Peterson already releasing numerous records as Baby Pop before its inception, with Ordonez releasing a significant amount from 2000 onwards, with the duo demonstrating their incredible knack and understanding for a vast array of the features that make the deep house sound so compelling and otherworldy. Whilst this would showcase itself very much so beyond the label, with both releasing on various other imprints, it would be with Tetrode that they would craft some of the genre's most captivating and engrossing music, where the identity of the label was distilled into a series of vastly emotional records that to this day stand tall via their brilliance and naturally flowing tone. Even though you could count Tetrode's release on your hands, each one remained very much a joint affair between Peterson and Ordonez, with both inputting almost equally into each release and how it would go on to define the core identity of the label. Even as house had been exported around the world and gone through so many micro evolutions, the duo remained faithful to its Chicago roots, particularly the early 90s era where extended soundscapes morphed and flowed with the times, a never ending emotional rollercoaster that washed over the listener as a series of lushous and vibrant tones. Upon first listen, its difficult to not be immediately hooked into whats going on, with any house head drawing themselves instantly into the fold, finding a place amongst the ocean of emotive euphoria. Its the compelling sophistication that hits you first, the tonal masterclass evident, the compositional sense very much present, alongside the notion that the atmospheres created remain consistent but very varied, with a foundation built by a strong vision for what house is capable of, with the duo pushing their music identities very much at the core of what flows from each record. The label began life with Peterson's fourth Baby Pop record, 'Minimal Structures', in 96', before he and Ordonez would collab on four joint records that really put the label on the map and confirmed it as one of the go to deep house records in the early 2000s. These records, which included 2001's 'For All The Music' (the subject of todays review), 2002's 'Mediterreanean', 2004's 'The Deep Theory EP', and 2009s 'The Tetrode Sessions', were all quintessential deep house records that all gave us a real sense of the core rhythms and values that flowed through the duo's minds and finger tips. Blessed with a uncanny ability to project mood and tone, all these records are simply some of the finest deep house records you will have the pleasure of listening too, as you will weave and dip through varying atmospheres all of which have been meticulously crafted and planned out, a warmth that swims over and caresses the mind with its smooth and elegant embrace. There would be time for two more releases under the Tetrode banner, in the form of 2011's 'Tetrode / Downbeat', and 2012's 'Tetrode / Downbeat 02', which were the first records to features talents other than Peterson and Ordonez, and both are wonderfully organic sounding records that would to the business in the emotional feels department every day of the week. Outside of Tetrode, the duo bought out some pretty damn good stuff, with Peterson releasing some fantastic records as both Baby Pop - 'Lillan' and 'Deep Techno' (both 1995) being our favourites - and 8088, with the 'Dimensions Of Sound' record from 97' also one to check out; and Ordonez released a slew of records under the Specter name, including 'Pipe Bomb' (2010), 'The Gooch EP' (2013) and 'Dreamscape' (2020), alongside his debut LP, 'Built To Last', that arrived in 2018. All in all, the duo crafting something truly remarkable in both their solo careers and alongside each other under the Tetrode banner, with both of their sounds remaining instantly recognisable in the deep house community, with their label work in particular always a reference point for how to forge a meaningful identity through expert sonics and passion. For a label that only released a handful of records, they sure did pack a real punch during their time together, and that is testament to their forward thinking approaches and the amount of love and heart that clearly went into every facet of the sound. If you enjoy your deep house, then seriously, check the label out - you will be amazed right from the very off.
So now, we turn to the record at the heart of today's review, the first of the joint Spector/Damon Lamar releases, 'For All The Music'. We thought in regards to the context of the label, there's no better place to begin than the duo's first effort together, and oh boy how it does set the stage for things to come. The lush vibrancy of it all comes out of the speakers right from the off, with the infectious drumming patterns matched by the brilliance in sonically rich melodies, which weave and dip all around and above the gently grooving rhythms. A real emphasis is placed every single element, how it repeats or decreases in feel and tone, how each passing moment has been meticulously crafted and built to facilitate the most pleasant feeling imaginable, it all just ties together so gracefully and with such purpose. A deeper dive you won't find in many other places, so without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first comes Specter and the title track, which sets the tone right from the off. The beat remains swinging with effortless momentum, the core groove consisting of the kicks that reside underneath with all manner of hats and cymbals residing on top, creating a wave of rhythm that persists so magically within the structures. On top lies the chord sequence, that goes between two beautifully considered tones, rising from just above the beats to a level on top, moving smoothly between the two in a sequencing that is unmatched. The overall picture is one of utter serenity, a calm meander through life's rich tapestry, a saunter along the imagined streets of our minds, leaves falling all around as the vibrances that bind us all ground us with their energies and moods. The vocal line, 'For All The Music Lovers In the World', starts to ring out across the soundscape, providing a little bit of narrative context to the ongoing proceedings, allowing us to further strengthen our bonds with the track. As the song begins to wind down, the kicks move away for a moment, that signals the introduction of the stab to align itself with the cut, with its pulsating nature riding out across the cut for one final switch up in terms of melody and mood. Sheer bliss. Up next comes Specter once more with the cut 'Mystery', and this one begins in more spaced out territories. The beat is more sparse on this one, with enormous amounts of space between the kicks and hats that provide the keys with a large amount of room in which to breathe. The melodic features here consist of the floating dwelling chord line that fills up the backdrop with glee, alongside the chiming cascading keys that rain down from up high with their majesty and feel, and before long we are joined by the bass line that sweeps through the underbelly of the track with grace and purpose. All the while a softly spoken vocal sample whispers across the tops of the music, leading the line for quite a long while as the melodic structures take a break to give additional weight to the words before coming right back into the foreground at just the right moment. The track then remains content on playing itself out, its dynamism and melodic creativeness there for all to see and witness, a belief in itself that its momentum remains grounded in its brilliant sonics and intoxicating looping nature. Just about as pure as it gets.
To wrap things up, we have 'Tsunami Rain' by Damon Lamar, and this one begins in the enriching undergrow of that thing we like to call cosmic foundations. The sound is one of flow, of water searching for its ultimate destination, content in moving through the lines to find its idealised place in the cut, and then the chords arrive, and how they do arrive. They move between the two once more, but their emotive depth is something to behold, like gentle breezes that wrap around the mind for infinity, with the drumming being introduced of equal softness and depth. The two work alongside each other impeccably, a delicate blend of forward momentum and rest, a track that is willing to let people take the time to get to know it for all its deep deep glory. The additional bass line that arrives adds weight to proceedings, as the original cosmic sound rises up and above the chords alongside the singular note that lays itself out across the track, originating from the middle of the panning before taking over the whole of the backdrop. The arrangement persists for a fair amount of time, as the kicks arrive at just the right time, a rhythmic pick up that does wonders to the mind, as additional congas continue to add complexity to the percussive structures. This is the kind of track that still to this day remains relevant, in that you begin to hear so much of what the contemporary scene is trying to emulate - a warmth in sound, an approach to melody that boarders on focused chords and tones, and a beat that you could sleep on, all of this flows from this absolute masterpiece of a cut. What grace, what purpose.
There's a lot of excellence to be found in the Tetrode label, and this record very much sets up what the label would look to achieve with later releases. So much of what makes this record truly brilliant is its feel and atmosphere, one grounded in bringing together the melody and the beat structures into perfected sync, a relationship that is brought together through beliefs and ideals, forged through a creative mindset of enriching people through the soft gentle tones of chords and congas. You get entranced with all the wonderous elements that spew forth from this bountiful and endlessly deep pool of musical experience, a sound that remains in the mind long after the record has stopped playing, the structures playing out continuously in your mind until you return back to its beautiful hypnotic ways. A start of a legacy was forged in this record, and you can see why people always come back to it, or if they stumble across it, they are immediately in love. A record of true brilliance, of meaning, and one very much worthy of the label 'timeless'.
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