House Music

Stripped to a sweaty moan, House Music echoes like a haunted sonic cathedral

House Music
WRITTEN BY
Chuck Eddy

Mingling Hi-BPM Euro-cheese with deep Paradise Garage soul, mid-'80s Chicago DJs like Frankie Knuckles (at clubs like the Warehouse) filled the disco void by situating gospelly shouts and ghostly chants atop computerized, pinetop boogie-woogie. Black, Latin, and gay crowds jacked bodies. Soon the groove spread to Detroit, London, and the world.

Various Artists
The History of the House Sound of Chicago
BCM Germany, 1988
The Bible: Well over 100 songs squeezed onto a dozen individually titled 12-inch vinyl chapters, minutely examining a history few outside Illinois even realized had begun. Two discs trace source material back to the '70s, but "House: The Future" simply means the late '80s — and the first elegant stirrings of Detroit techno. In between, Holy Grail classics via labels Trax and D.J. International have lots of very messy sex, in church. And a guy actually calling himself Phuture invents acid house.

Various Artists
In the Key of E
Desire UK, 1988
Acid-house's machine-tooled disruption never displayed more midnight-rambling human flesh than on this dense, dubwise sampler. Adonis' four contributions turn layered clutter celestial, as eerie mullahs bemoan "hurting from the lack of love"; on Fingers Inc.'s "Can You Feel It?" a preacher rasps his harsh and horny sermon amid an atmospheric backdrop. More ominous selections conjure the grits-and-gravy surreality of Westbound-era Funkadelic: Count Bass-E's "So Fine," and even more so, Bam Bam's "Where's Your Child?" an updated chitlin'-circuit blues about youth abandoned to perish.

Lil Louis & the World
From the Mind of Lil Louis
Epic, 1989
Having topped the dance chart with six minutes of electro-orchestrated, multi-orgasmic female ecstasy known as "French Kiss," an eccentric Chicago DJ divides his conceptual debut album into propulsive "Dance" and pastoral "Romance" sides. In "Lil Tanya," his blues-veteran dad plays guitar and sings. In "Blackout," Reverend Lou shouts psalms at us while God destroys the world for our sins. There's a war protest, too.

Inner City
Big Fun
Virgin, 1989
On British radio and American dance floors, what first broke Detroit house and techno wasn't Derrick May's desolate synthscapes, but deceptively happy-faced slogans like "Good Life" and "Big Fun," from a duo comprising keyboardist Kevin Saunderson and Chicago singer Paris Grey. Upbeat tribal shuffles with flighty doo-wop whimpers disappeared behind curtains of steely bass and stately piano, somehow echoing Earth, Wind & Fire at their sunniest.

Liz Torres
The Queen Is in the House
Jive/Rca, 1990
From a Puerto Rican siren with Morticia Addams fingernails, comes a bizarre link between Chicago house and Latin freestyle. Her slinky singing and Robert Clivillés' mangled beats in "If You Keep It Up" jump so furiously you initially assume your vinyl is warped. From there, Torres declares herself crazy and proceeds to spout cynical, gothic druid-drama to prove it, breaking occasionally for payback blues-talk and Celia Cruz piano salsa.

Masters at Work
The Album
Cutting, 1993
Like their '60s Latin boogaloo predecessors, "Little" Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez were outer-borough Nuyoricans mixing dance genres across the Afro-Caribbean spectrum. Cronies of '80s house-collage specialist Todd Terry (whose own 1988 To the Batmobile Let's Go just missed this list), they wound up premier producers of house's second decade. Buoyed by diva cameos from Jocelyn Brown and India, this freshman set demonstrates why.

Various Artists
DJ Ayres & Cosmo Baker Present: Hip-House
Djayres.Com, 2004
Hip-hop's mythic, late-'80s Golden Age of virtuoso lyricizing and Afrocentric consciousness coincided with a simultaneous push back toward rap's initial disco-derived ethos. On this latter-day mix, forgotten Chicago hip-house titan Fast Eddie is allotted three titles, while hybrids from KC Flightt, Rob Base, Twin Hype, and the Jungle Brothers alternate with newer Kelis and OutKast bangers that fit right in.

Daft Punk
Homework
Virgin, 1997
Beach Boys fans in the great Plastic Bertrand tradition, these Parisian pioneers appropriately named their debut single "New Wave." From the planet-spanning "Around the World" on down, this full-length debut suggests daffy little punques sticking bubble gum all over textbooks, sculpting staticky squeaks into nonsense mantras over hi-hat hooks. On "Teachers," they even chant a roll call of forefathers — Lil Louis included.

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