Back when Jay Shepheard’s imprint Retrofit was gearing up to release his scrappy debut LP Home & Garden, Shepheard declared a set of aesthetic ground rules for the album he was hoping to create: no filler, no obvious singles, no slapping guest vocals onto instrumentals to make them sound more album-y. Shepheard may appreciate the need for discriminating tastes and efficient technical know-how more than most—before founding Retrofit, he worked for several years in the vaults of online retailer Juno Records, indexing crate after crate of music as it arrived. His savvy ear was one of the chief pleasures of Home & Garden, which showcased Shepheard’s contemporary visions of piano-driven garage, tech house, and starry-eyed nu-disco in compact four-and-a-half-minute bursts. But it also sounded a little tight-fisted, the work of a skilled producer powering through the uncertainty of being his own label boss.
Shepheard’s new album, Seeing Sound, is the result of a slight relaxation of those aesthetic strictures. It’s a looser set of eight sprawled-out house tracks that wisely taps Shepheard’s skills as a singles producer (something he honed on a series of six 12” releases for Compost’s Black Label, the most successful of which was the nocturnal fantasy “Pipes N Sneakers”.) Despite hitting many of the same touchstones, it feels more thematically consistent than his last effort.
Shepheard’s typically dry style, which borrows much of its artificial surface character from analog techno, is fully present here—”Mover Friendly” is an almost parodically twitched-out version of a ghetto house stomp, while “One Day City”‘s classic disco riff comes in harsh, electronic plunks.
Seeing Sound also features some of Shepheard’s most creative vocal manipulations, which add an extra-human element to music already soaked in technical manipulation. “Dance Language” features a heavily filtered gurgle that’s eerily ambiguous, while the irrepressibly fun “Mover Friendly”, with its fractured stutters and mumbles, is a master class on expressive post-verbal vocal sampling. Shepheard is no traditionalist, despite his use of familiar styles; on Seeing Sound, his interpretations fuse those sounds with the techno-anxiety of recycled culture and Internet-native music, subtly expanding house music’s sound by situating it firmly in the present.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1yPUC2h