June 23, 2009

Theo Parrish – Sound Signature Sounds (2000, Sound Signature)

Theo Parrish is a house artist and DJ from Detroit who has been putting out original, abstract, lo-fi dance records since the mid '90s, and now runs his own Sound Signature label, releasing a steady stream of his own and his friends' 12”s each year. I first heard a buzz about Theo on internet discussion forums around the release of his “Sound Signature Sounds” CD, which collects tracks from the label's first six 12”s. The aesthetic is minimalist and organic, with unprocessed drum machine beats, gritty low-bitrate samples and live-feeling synth chords and melodic improvisation. Hints of disco and funk rhythms enter the mix, and the mood is deep and soulful, yet largely instrumental save for some abstract looping vocal samples in the background. I love the jazzy feel to the chord progressions and the constant live change-ups in the drum patterns. All the elements of Theo Parrish's later musical composition styles make an experience here, from tribal African drumming, quirky synth programming to endlessly repeating hypnotic disco loops which he later explored on his fascinating Ugly Edits 12” white-label series. Along with fellow Detroit deep house master Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann, with whom Theo has collaborated on the KDJ label, Theo Parrish is outspoken on the roots of modern dance music as coming from African sources, and considers his DJ sets to be musical history lessons in motion. My personal favorite era of Theo Parrish 12"s is '96-'02, but to be honest I find something I enjoy on almost everything he releases, including his more recent full-length and EPs with organic live house band 3 Chairs, and his '08-'09 Sound Signature 12"s on an extended blunted space-jam tip are well worth hearing!