The difficulty of the album format in house and techno is well-known and well-discussed. A producer at the top of their game can go their whole career without ever trying their hand at a full-length stream of material. Yet, ask any artist that has spent their career dishing out a myriad of 12-inch singles and EPs what their goal is, and inevitably, the album sits at the top of their sights.
A case in point is Delano Smith. As far as protégés of house music go – a Chicago native, brought up in Detroit and taken under the wing of the legendary Ken Collier (although his influence is largely unknown he was every bit as important to the Motor City’s legacy as Ron Hardy was to Chicago’s) – Smith is one of the most respected names in the brood. Mastering the art of DJing in the underground parties that laid down the foundations for the music we know today, Smith turned his hand to producing at the start of the new century, and it is only now that his debut long player appears.
The difficulties of applying the structures of house music to the album format seem imperceptible for Smith. His fervour for truly showcasing what he really has to say is nevertheless palpably apparent. His musical limbs, cramped from over a decade in wait, finally stretch themselves out, taking brisk strides forward through an incredibly varied selection of sounds that transcend all manners of context.
Opening tracks, ‘Survival’, and, ‘What I Do’, are Chicago through-and-through, bubbling with the kind of vigour and smooth silkiness that the Windy City is all about in equal measures. ‘Feel This’ dives down to a more melancholic place, analogue synths delivering that classic Detroit sound alongside a stealthy round on the 909, hi-hats and bass drums kicking deep into the ground. ‘Midnight Hours’ hears Smith slide into something more comfortable, a driving bass acting as the staunch sibling to jazzy flourishes and seductive musings. It sounds like it was made for the Peacefrog discography.
Still, Smith carries on to drive his sound forward, evolving now into peak-time dance floor material in the way of the hypnotic ‘No Turning Back’. A short stop off in Berlin giving us the very European sounding ‘Odyssey’. By way of natural responsibility, ‘Togetherness’ ensures an unforgettable exit with a classic deep house sound that is understated and pure magic.
The sheer audacity to try your hand out at such a number of different styles and influences can only come from someone who has spent years on the circuit, spinning and absorbing all manner of different sounds. His first-hand experience of the nascent days of Chicago and Detroit probably does nothing to hinder his capabilities neither.
It’s a mature sound that comes from someone that knows better than to follow trends but still finds themselves curious and passionate about where they can go with their music. A pleasure to listen to and as apt for solitary home listening as each and every track is for the dark cathouses of clubland.