Despite electronic music's ostensibly futurist bent, house music in 2012 sounds overwhelmingly like 1992 all over again: All tracky drum grooves, stabbing pianos, and staccato bass lines, with the odd wailing diva thrown in for good measure. That's hardly a bad thing — if it ain't broke, etc. — but the most encouraging side effect of house music's current retro fixation has been the way that it has helped to shine a spotlight on some of the genre's pioneers.
Enter Chicago's Curtis Jones, better known under his aliases Cajmere and Green Velvet. House music was already deeply ingrained in Chicago by the time that Jones started making music in 1990, with just a drum machine, a Yamaha synthesizer, and a Tascam 4-track recorder. But he and his Cajual label, founded in 1992, helped pump fresh energy into the scene, turning out raw, skeletal, faintly unhinged machine funk shaded with classic soul.
A new compilation from the U.K.'s Strut label, Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records 1992 – 2012, surveys some of the best music to appear on the label in the past 20 years. (Despite the title, the vast majority of the material on the double-disc comp is from the period between 1992 and 1997.) Alongside obvious, enduring hits like Cajmere's "Percolator" and Cajmere and Dajae's "Brighter Days," there's plenty more to discover here: Johnny Fiasco's organ-soaked jack track "Taurus," Gemini's psychedelic carnival jam "Le Fusion," and, particularly, Adam's "Moments in Time," a disorienting whirl of syncopated drums and off-beat arpeggios that suggests the off-kilter approach that Chicago's Jamal Moss would take in his own work as Hieroglyphic Being. From the soulful to the seriously twisted, all of house music's essential elements are here in this anthology.
To promote the comp, Cajual artist Johnny Fiasco put together a 37-minute mini-mix featuring some of his favorite tracks from the label's catalog. Check it out below, and read more about Only 4 U on the Strut website.