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The protests convulsing many American cities in the aftermath of Ferguson are a fitting backdrop for Theo Parrish’s gritty new American Intelligence album, as the outspoken Detroit DJ/producer has noted himself. Even without the police harassment skit in the background of the song Welcome Back, Parrish shows he isn’t interested in delivering the escapist fantasies many look for in dance music. This is house music for people who’ve lost their jobs, and it sounds just as raw as that too-common circumstance feels.
Listening to the epically long album in one sitting is an endurance test, but doing so allows the hypnotic, trance-inducing grooves to unfold naturally. It’s not as dissonant and lo-fi as some of his early releases, but the off-kilter rhythms and deliberately murky mix are as geniusly idiosyncratic as always. Even at his most experimental, Parrish always makes connections to the larger history of black American music, in the same way that Charles Mingus put blues and gospel riffs at the centre of his avant-garde jazz epics.
Top track: Be In Yo Self (featuring Ideeyah & Duminie Deporres)