Families can be the worst (especially on TV and in the movies). And they can be they be the best, whether you're lucky enough to have an "actual" (re: biological) family that "gets you" (even if they don't sometimes) or you've created an ad hoc family of friends and lovers. Then there are those "families" that may or not be sex cults or deliciously occult, but their very existence provides us with the support, the love, and the ability to see things we just can't to maybe, just maybe, help us in living a non-shitty life. Like the word "home," family is a concept that is central to anyone's existence and which can give one the emotional wherewithal to fully transcend the banalities of the everyday as no matter how browbeating one's diurnal drudgeries may be, at least they have a family to go home to...or something of the sort.
For committed music fans, the music they accrue and fall in love with throughout their lives becomes its own form of family. As I wrote recently, one of the many biases most music writers leave unchecked is their own personal narrative and how it informs how they approach both music criticism and music history as a whole. It's something I try to always take into consideration when evaluating a new work from an artist of whom I could be considered a "fanboi" or whose music has played the role of a pedagogically-inclined grandparent or aunt/uncle whose interest align with and stoke your own. Just as the great negative review argument of 2017 symbolized a retreat amongst music writers away from confronting their own biases by only reviewing music they want to 'support,' the boundary between fan and critic has never felt so slippery. And when it comes to an artist like Jochem Peteri whose music has paralleled my own decade-plus descent into dance music obsession, it's hard to know just how objective I can be...or if it even matters.
As regular visitors to this space and my IG account may have noticed, I <3 the music of Peteri. Hell, just look to the right. That's an all-Peteri mix that weaves together his more inward-looking Ross 154 material--as best realized on his deeply influential Strike LP from 2004--alongside his better-known body of work under his Newworldaquarium project with some loop-based ambient techno stylings Newworldromantic for good measure. It's a breathtaking discography that someday I might do greater justice, one that is a testament to the power of perfectly-calibrated "tracks." Tracks in dance music parlance relate to the more functional tracks in a DJ's arsenal; ones they can play while often mixing in a more fleshed-out track. But like anything in dance music, there is a spectrum of tracks out there and at least two competing schools of thought: those that look at them as purely functional tools and those who manage to induce a type of prolonged engagement that can represent the apex of dance music's genius by squeezing out of a choice set of loops the type of hypnosis-inducing dance floor experience that so often leads to the most transcendent of moments.
One of the things that makes Peteri's music so goddamn good is the sincerely musical and artistic way he approaches their creation. Long relying on an all-analog set-up, in interviews he would speak of the highly unorthodox schedule he keeps in relation to their production, not creatng anything for years at times, and then entering into a several-month trance that can produce several years of releases. In the press release for his newest and most unanticipated new release under the long-dormant 154 alias, it's noted that this is his first new material recorded since the ambient "Thousand Oaks" track. This stuck out to me considering he released the Chubby Knuckles twelve on his own NWAQ imprint last summer. Though considering that it sounded like such vintage NWAQ, now I wonder if the tracks were recorded much earlier and finally given a much-deserved physical release.
Either way, when I came across the news last Wednesday that Peteri would be joining the Boomkat 12X12 series--a series I once mocked for their releasing $20 single-sided singles, which I of course now own two of--I was simply overcome. What would this new material sound like? Knowing that Peteri had recently welcomed into existence his second child, I was a bit surprised that such an event would give him the time to finally find a way to start incorporating digital elements into his set-up. Or maybe it was the impetus. Having just experienced one of my closest friends giving birth to a son as well, I could never have expected the sudden and complete change in my feelings on the matter as, hey, that was my dude's son now so what else really matters? All of which to say, new life is often an impetus for change on a deep level and in the press pack for Wherever You Go I Will Follow, the sole words from Peteri about this release is "This one is all about family."
Created as the soundtrack to an installation by Delta, an artist who has helped develop Delsin's visual identity over a host of releases, the twenty-two minute piece has been cut at 45rpm and split between the A of Where You Go and the B of I Will Follow. Having spent much of the past week with a digital copy of the record, I have yet to experience the joy of playing it at 33rpm but for those looking for the main takeaway, here it is: Wherever You Go I Will Follow sees Peteri integrating digital tools and sounds into his set-up to create one of the most entrancing and densely rewarding recordings of his twenty-five-plus year career. It's a release that can be played on your tinny laptop speakers as I did on the first go, secreting the new baby smell of pure wonder, but it's only when played on headphones or proper speakers that its depths rise up sumbmerge the listener in its gestational, awe-struck headspace.
While parallels can be drawn with the more beatless tracks on Strike or the hypnotic thump of "Spirit," one listen to the extended and distinctly aquatic odyssey is enough to indicate that this release marks a nuanced but no less bold step forward in the artist's sound. Granular wave forms assembled into identifiable notes greet the listener with an unquestioning sense of discovery, the high end in particular rendered in shimmering, radiant plasticine refracting the belabored and elgant sound design. Affixed to the bulbous hull is a peculiarly aslant kick pattern that seems to want to snap into the gentle charging 4X4 rhythm that has propped up many of the producer's stand-out tracks under the 154 alias with "Sun" representing a shining zenith of this method. However, unlike that piece's rhythmic-melodic flourishes that aid in giving it a certain forward propulsion that could work on the headier of dance floors, "Wherever You Go" is confident to let its assembled parts sprout on thie own, the kicks stuttering in a half-remembered echo of a club banger. Ambling about blissfully unhurried, the rhytmic utterances never quite break through to the surface of the mix, rather undulating beneath au natural, complementing the wave-like crashing of the piece's harmonic elements that seem to follow their own inherent logic. Where the producer would often find a clearly defined loop to repeat into transcendence as on career highlight "Tresspassers," "Wherever You Go" remains firmly corporeal-bound, encased within a protective gestational sac safe from the dangers of reality. The principle melodic motif emerges ever-so slyly from the lower register, a beautifully-articulated two-note bass motif that extends its way without an apparent meter in place, adding to the overall amorphous, nimbus quality. As the melodic and harmonic elements become more fleshed out over the A side's eight-and-a-half minutes, the kick turns ghostly, diminishing in volume and emerging a few final times to accent the start of the primary melody before being dissolved by the sonic sea, wind-swept fog swelling up as the A side retreats into silence. One can't help but wonder if Peteri only had his analog tools, this would mark the piece's end. But be it the nature of the installation he was soundtracking or the newly-found freedom and control provided by his new digital toolbox "finally allowing him to dynamically compose, edit and effortlessly shift between and inside mediums," as states the press release.
And it's this sense of eternal shifting that really finds its groove on the B side, as "Wherever You Go" brings the whole thing roaring back to life, kicks and all, the comfort of the familiarbe ckoning the listener to take another dip. The melody established on the A continues at its own pace as sustained digital stabs and ripples cascade across the surface. Gradually, the build is replicated in miniature as a storm front starts to build, or is it just anxiety over the coming of the unknown? Part of what has made Peteri's music so affective in the past was its seeming lack of telos--the narrative unspooling itself in each passing second. Where so many dance hits are happy to provide extended takes on the verse-chorus structure inherited from centuries of songwriting, NWAQ and 154 have always been content to let it burn, revealing new layers as the familiar flakes into airborn ember, He doesn't construct dance music narratives as much as ambient techno walkabouts in search of a more profound, almost spiritual listening experience. And despite its extended length, like Peteri's ambient and dance tracks, we're given the major plotlines up front, freeing the listener from any type of expectations and allowing them to simply exist, to grow, and to come out the other side wholly other yet still the same. Like his beloved Basic Channel, Peteri has always had an intuitive knack for conjuring up an ecosystem of studio magick. Where the former's methodology reflected time-consuming sonic sculpting born out of repeat sessions, Peteri's insinstence on chasing a sonic idea over the concentrated course of hours from which he excavates the moments where he 'got it right' has given birth to a catalog that rewards endless listening, not to uncover new elements or ideas buried beneath countless others, but rather to try and grasp just how something so simple can be rendered so densely intuitive. With Where You Go, I Will Follow, the producer has tapped into a potent emotional vein that eases some of the longing melancholia found in much of his earlier work, replacing it with a communl spirit of working together as the different elements in the mix interlock harmoniously into a glorious bliss machine. While it's unlikely this piece will bless listeners with its appearance on a dance floor anytime soon, it falls into a niche set of music that seems to beg that it be listened with those close to you in an embryonic space a la Miriam Zazeela and La Monte Young's Dream House. Or maybe just a living room with a Netflix video of a fireplace playing in the center. After all, there are no set rules with family, only free-forming love. Open yourself up to its embrace.