Walt & Dave - Depth EP 1 - How Deep Can U Go (Vigilante Records, 1995)
Two of Detroit's finest talents join forces on the first of numerous collabs together that saw the worlds of house and techno collide in such breathtaking fashion.
They say that two is better than one, but more often than not its more of the magic that can be combined when two like minded individuals cross paths and decide to make something truly special. Apart from one another, they tread a line of individuality, keen and eager to follow their own path that feeds into their mindsets and ambitions, but when placed in the same room their shared knowledge and ideals synthesise and blossom into a relationship that draw from the best of both worlds and brings life to magic. Throughout the course of dance music, there have been many of these kinds of dual or group dynamics occurring, be it on remix duties, production work or collaborating together on records, some of the best and most thought provoking developments in many electronic genres have come through the art of being alongside someone else. There's something so satisfying about listening to two people who clearly share and invest in a joint vision, one that brings to the table a plethora of sounds that continually inspire and delight in equal measure, always providing connects for us to make between the music they share and the music they make on an individual level. Over the years, there have been a lot of highly engaging collabs, that have created much surprise and intrigue into the direction that some have gone in, but it always provides an alternative side to the spectrum in which artists look to inhibit. Its as if the music being made in a shared environment is the sound that these artists always wanted to make but never got the chance, now emboldened by the presence of another who enables them to try their hand at something new. Its a wonderful deviation that starts to develop, one that emphasises experimentation, giving and receiving, a rich blend of all that can be celebrated about both artists distilled down to its core, an identity that is part individual and part collaborative, the result arriving somewhere in the middle of an imagined plain of musical expressionism. We see these moments as coming togethers at the crossroads, where the duality of musical meaning and existence shows itself to its fullest extent, willing to showcase the ins and outs of successful collaboration, and whatever form it might take. On that rare occasion when both the producers involved happen to be truly one of a kind, then we really see all manner of enrichment occur, as two souls with a penchant for the unexpected and the unique take the time to wrap us around their sonic little finger and help our hearts soar and our minds flourish with possibility. Its enough to get the blood racing, and we are all for having our creative visions expanded to their fullest extent, lost in a world filled with brilliance, imagination and originality.
When considering how successful a joint production partnership can be, its impossible to ignore the short but incredibly influential outputs of Detroit natives Dave Peoples and Walter C. Jones. Via People's Vigilante Records imprint, the duo would craft some of the Motor City's most spellbinding, soulful and evocative tunes during the mid 90s, with a discography that contained so many moments that pushed the genres of house and techno further onwards. The magic laid in the music being crafted, tunes that delved right into the hearts of the two aforementioned genres and bought forth a sound that few have pulled off as well as these two, one forged from deep set passions and beliefs that resonate from every corner of the music they conjure up. With every release together, or on their own, they both seemed to further the narrative onwards, continually evolving their sound to new heights which involved a constant tweaking of the formula, maintaining a heavy emphasis on production values but always searching for new ways to lift hearts and minds. Its the kind of music that speaks to both house or techno lovers, with the ever impressive melodic work doing much to link the two trains of thought together, as the percussive structures remain some of the most intricate and considered we have ever come across. Both of these key features come together so impressively and so consistently within their shared discographies, indicating a fruitful relationship that seemingly could have lasted for a lifetime, but instead we are blessed with a handful of extraordinary EPs that keep doing the business up til today and certainly into the near future and beyond. Looking back through both their individual works and their collaborative pieces, our favourites include the lush cosmic tones that weave together on the electro tinged 'Rise Of The Moon' EP, that arrived in 1996, which was released by Peoples under the Dirty Dave P alias; the hard hitting and utterly infectious vibes found on the 'The Autonomy' EP, that came out in 1996 under The Specialist Alias; the undeniably incredible deep house tones that flow from the groundbreaking 'Dimensional Plains' EP, that arrived in 1996 under the Dave Peoples & Walt J name; the hands in the air euphoria of the excellent self titled record, released as a joint effort, that also landed in 96 under the Walt J Project; and, with Walt J's solo works, the choppy rhythms and infectious melodies that abound from the 'Divinity' record, that landed in 1997; the beautiful and varied tones that echo from the 'Ascender' release, which also arrived in 97'; the utterly infectious deepness that resonates from within the timeless 'Reflection' EP, which was released in 97'; and finally, the return to form for Walt J, the brilliant 'Resurgence' EP, which arrived in 2014. Together they created some timeless blends, apart they did an equally compelling job, and it shows us how both Peoples and Jones were able to bring forth to the table ideas and concepts from both their sounds that complimented each other so very well indeed. The emotive qualities in all three strands of production are up there with the very best that deep house and techno has to offer, but there's an inherent depth to the technicality that really shines through. Its the incisive and invent drum patterns, the tone and feel of the keys and notes, the atmospheres that feel meticulously put together, all these factors determine very much the adoration that is still felt for their works to this very day. Its music that feels polished to the 8th degree, but organic, sequential, progressive and thought provoking, the kind of electronica that hits the sweet spot in the club but does wonders for those looking to escape a home. Getting that balance and dynamic correct is no easy feat, but Peoples and Jones are truly masters at what they do, and its hard to call their small but incredibly memorable discography as anything less than revolutionary. If you crave the sweetest of house and techno, then look no further than the sounds of Peoples and Jones. Incredible stuff.
And now, we turn our attention to the subject of today's review, the first record the pair worked on and released together, 'Depth EP 1 - How Deep Can U Go', which came out on Peoples' imprint Vigilante records. Not content with sticking to just one singular thread of techno's rich foundations, but instead delivering up four cuts that differ wonderfully from one another, all slightly switching between mood, application and percussive tendencies to bring over an experience that is enriching, full and groundbreaking. The amount of creativity that abounds from all corners of this record is astonishing, crafting a link between us and the two heads behind it that can never be broken. Its techno for a new age, one that pointed in so many directions but most importantly to a new future, one when the blueprint was being continually rewritten and reconsidered, particularly by the sounds that resonate from records like this one. So, without further delay, lets get into this sublime techno classic.....
Up first comes 'Cresent Lab 23', which begins out in typical Detroit techno fashion. The familiar chord stylings move through the gears as soft notch like drumming patterns lay the foundation so softly underneath, and before long the key top line swell arrives to add further depth and intrigue into the equation. The emotive levels are flying high at this point, and just like that the kicks arrive with additional percussive elements to boot, which craft a wondrous sense of dynamism and scale into proceedings, as the flurry of hats and bass line arrive to complete the picture. The squelch like key line makes its presence known through the middle, driving a wedge of energy within the track that encourages the other elements to keep pace, and they do so with ever increasing fever as the snares abound with glee in the backdrop, keeping the rhythm going along on its ever evolving journey. The overall picture is mesmerising, energised to the max but soft and gentle on top, washing over us with each passing second, pummelling our soul gently with its warm embrace, as little blemishes and notes worm their way into the top corners of the cut to really elevate our minds to new places. There is no let up, no break in energy, simple a never ending cascade of energy that doesn't falter or cease in its tracks, merely engaging constantly with our brainwaves as we smile and saunter along to life's great mysteries and discoveries. Genius. 'Nuponty' arrives next, and it begins with one of the purest drumming sequences you will ever hear. The swinging beat, with its constant kicks providing a foundation for all manner of percussive wizardry to fall into place, and just as we had become enamoured with the beat, we are then greeted by some gorgeous pads that swell and swell with each placement, acting alone at first but then growing and morphing so succinctly into a awe-inspiring audial soundscape. The diving chordal arrangements are paired with tantalising cascades of keys, that flow and ripple on either side of the rhythm with meaning and presence, with the melodic features of the track taking on a whole new form entirely. Just when we thought the melodic richness couldn't get any more vibrant, we arrive into a breakdown of sorts that sees the keys really shine on top, playful navigating the spectrum of sound that unravels and undulates underneath it all. The keys drop out for a moment in order for us to reconnect with the drums for a bit, but it isn't long until we are dipped right back into the gorgeous melodies, that for one final sequence wash over us, leaving us feeling all the more richer for that experience. Unreal.
'The Journey (Walk)' arrives next, and this one begins in morphological territories. The arpeggio key line feels noteless, acting more like a electronic representation of rhythm as it intrigues us beyond belief when the kicks come into play, with the two elements allowed to flow onwards and really wrap themselves around our ears. The interplay gets introduced to as additional cymbals and a bass line align themselves with the track, and a deep set vocal sample just adds to the hypnotic quality of the track. Before long, some stunning chords are laid on top, and the overall picture is complete, allowing us to transcend even further and deeper into the subconscious of this track, a picture that is painted so vividly in front of us for all to see and enjoy. The manner in which the track undulates and fluctuates feels so natural yet persists very much in the human experience, residing somewhere in the transparent membrane between our experiences and our imaginations, be it whatever context. Utterly mesmerising. To finish things up, we have 'Jamie's Dream', and this one begins in very dreamy places indeed. The kicks and a key line open things up, the notes of the keys falling away out of pitch as our eyes blink through the mist to see the light, which arrives as the chords arrive in such triumphant fashion, adding a depth to proceedings that has been a hallmark of this excellent record. The vocal line calls out to us from deep within the cut, as high line keys add themselves into the mix through the middle with energy and meaning, with the sequence only growing in intensity and complexity as time passes by. It feels like a conversation, an exchange of ideas, all the thoughts we have of when dreaming channeled into a living breathing representation, as a new fast paced vocal sample moves along with the rhythm as a counter act to the more softly spoken one on the left hand side. 'Just Dream Of Me' is what they say, as we drift and drift some more through a world filled with colours and vitality, the messages of those we talked today carrying through, the images we see painted again with dynamic colours, the visions and thoughts we had being played out for real. A world that feels so vibrant, a spectrum of sounds that work together on a level unlike no other. Fucking incredible.
Its hard to think of a sound like the one that gets conjured up on this record, and perhaps that is where the secret lies for Peoples' and Jones' story. Their combined abilities within production, arrangement and creativity know no bounds, and that is demostrated in four cuts that are very much made in the realms of techno but strike out on their own when it comes to complexity and sound. There's tones in here unlike no other, there's drums here that could shatter mountains and pulsate through the earth itself, there's transitions and segments that flow like running water through a picturesque landscape, and there's moments that soundtrack ourselves losing it on the dance floor. All of this is conveyed through the application of tone and texture of every single element found within this record, from the very beginning to end, its a piece of music that never gives up or gives in to our constant mental meanderings. This is one for the ages. Truly, truly genius work.
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