"You're thinking short when you should be playing long." Before The Wire was swept into the 'golden age of TV' canon and became the show every white person wanted to talk about with that black guy at the party, I remember hearing (roughly) that quote twelve years ago, hitting my spine like a taser. It's a keep-your-eyes-on-the-big-picture truism that has served me well in my own dance music journey (where things just seem to repeat themselves every five to ten years at this point). At a time when 'Brooklyn techno' is crusading against clapping during a DJ set--no, seriously, it's FUCKED--and WABbits (White, Aggressive & Boring children) run the show, I've found myself regularly returning to much of the dance music that first pulled me into this journey (namely, the sounds of Detroit and OG Dubstep). Music that comes from somewhere, be it pain, hard work, mania, whatever, and tries to say something, be it a story, an impression, fucking anything!
So it all felt a bit too fitting that two days after decamping from the inspiration suckhole that is Brooklyn in 2018, I found myself conversing with another midwestern dance blogger/DJ/producer/awesome human about the state of house when he interrupted me with the pressing question of "Have you heard the new Specter (Andres Ordonez) album on Sound Signature?" Quickly jumping over to Soundcloud to scope the clips (which you can do as well below), I knew within a minute Ordonez had created the masterpiece of a full-length that anyone keeping their ear to the underground knew was imminent. Having held down Chicago with his uniquely deep synthesis of Afro-Latin percussion and hazy, psychedelic synth pads and melodies for a solid two decades now--he's the type of head whose reputation tends to speak for itself--listening to Built to Last, whether the first time or the twentieth, has perhaps singlehandedly rekindled my deep, long-abiding love for real deep and off-kilter-like-a-motherfucker house music.
Kicking off the album in the finest of styles is the sensually banging vocoder funk of the cheekily-titled "What Else Do You Do." And though it's that vocal hook that will send sudoriferous souls jitting up the walls, the track also serves as an opening salvo of the type of house music we're about to hear: uncompromising, tripping, and deep as dirt. Like the other seven sprawling house odysseys included on the vinyl version--there are also cassette, CD, and digital editions--that rely on a 4beat for their primary momentum and rhythmic structure, "What Else" manages to suck you in further than you could ever imagine, be it through those texturing conga rolls, snakingly subtle counter-melodies, or sheer force of the producer's vision.
Follow-up track "Magnets on Wood" and "Intro" on the B2--the guy clearly has a deep sense of humor--are both just massive set starters that clock in at under four minutes each. While bangers the both of them, "Magnets" is the one I am salivating at the thought of kicking off a set with. An amniotic gurgle of synths give way to a charging Berlin School-style bassline, martial yet funky hi-hats are brought gently into the mix, daring the listener to take their own journey into the dimly-lit recesses of the mind. "Intro" is just as captivating, a stilted beat-collage redolent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with its haunting spoken word samples or "Seen Not Seen" off of Remain in Light. And yes, I love the Talking Heads too much, so my dome is just instantly gonna go there.
Returning to the lengthier head-fucks Built is bursting at the seams with, the come-hither piano vamp that kicks off "Tamarindo" pays dividends when a minute-twenty in, a brutal tonal slab hits on every third beat, creating a wonderfully disjunctive rhythmic vortex atop the fiercely acidic snare rhythm. For me, when I first listened (and did nothing else) to the album over a week ago, it was that element that told me this is house music that is quite literally built to last (soorrrrrrry but talk about truth in advertising). A playful topline skirts across a reassuring piano motif and a whinging synth melody, the siren having receded into the distance, clearing the floor of those not in it for the feeling.
With four meaty tracks spread across four sides of vinyl making up the album's second half of sorts, you'll quickly realize the preceding four tracks have been a top-class warm-up with the best still to come. A bubbling cauldron of synthemes roils atop a commanding kick, setting the stage for the intoxicating, lunging organ line that soon emerges as the focal point of the subtle storm that is "Jaws of Life." Both "Tamarindo" and "What Else" give the listener a solid sense of Ordonez's abilities to hypnotize the listener into giving themselves over to his singular sense of time and space. But's on tracks like "Jaws" where he truly stretches out and shows, as the following track states, "I'm Not New At This." Rolling in on a solid Latin percussive groove, accented by a slight melodic squiggle, the heavenly, patient pads that bring the song into focus make a strong case that hard work and patience is a big part into making house music that will actually sound relevant in a decade or five. A hotel lobby piano and a synth-funk rhythmelody wander into the mix to subtly change the atmosphere and leave at their own leisure, those primary pads holding this beautiful beast together with pure class.
The charming feedback squall that introduces "0829 Fifty Fifty" is quickly augmented with supplementary percussion and yet another askew piano line that sounds at once terrestrial and alien, especially when the quiet storm of the b-line rounds out the whole mix. From there, we have another nine minutes where outside of some incoherent vocal chatter and assorted sounds, Ordonez doubles down on his inimitable sense of difference and repetition, showing off why he's been putting out lowkey bangers like 2012's electrifying "Pipe Bomb" or 2001's enchanting "Mystery" on his essential Tetrode label. Closing the album on my copy is the pitch-perfect oddity that is "Sidewinder," a driving house jam built around a psychedelic guitar loop (or what sounds like one) beneath which arises a tidal swell of shimmering, undulating chords, an afrocentric guitar line pushing the album to wonderful new heights. By the time the stubborn, plodding bassline hits, it's hard not to think how most of the tracks on Built to Last do follow a certain formula--enticing intro loop and beat followed by revelatory keys and bass, then jammed the fuck out. But isn't that the beauty of dance and dub music? The ability to take a slamming beat and b-line and take it out into the cosmos? With Built to Last, Specter makes the most convincing argument I've heard all year for why he should be in the top tier of truly exciting, seasoned, and reliable dance music producers. Plus, homie is an insane DJ, natch.