In the ever-evolving world of house music, it’s difficult to remain relevant — many records have a shelf-life of about a year. Last year’s high-hat tones and other samples are quickly bested, new production techniques are established, and some of the most innovative producers in music keep things moving forward; producers like Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano and others are busy inventing subgenres that sound like nothing ever created before.
This being said, for an album that was originally released four years ago to sound completely relevant today, a producer must be doing something right. This leads us to the world of Theo Parrish, perhaps one of the most influential producers in house music, and the re-release of his absolutely classic Parallel Dimensions.
Some background: Parrish grew up in Chicago and began deejaying in 1986 at age thirteen, influenced and aided by Chicago radio deejays and producers such as Larry Heard, Lil’ Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy and Walter “Get Down” Brown. He started making beats at age fourteen. Over the years, Parrish’s production sound would evolve into something unique: deep and rhythmic, with a jazz element coupled with distinct Detroit bass lines. At present, nearly twenty years on, he’s still actively deejaying, remixing and producing. He lives in Detroit, where he moved before releasing his 1996 EP, Baby Steps, and he has undoubtedly left his mark on that city’s much-touted sound.
Parrish originally released Parallel Dimensions on his own label, Sound Signature, in 2000. The record was limited to a thousand copies on CD, with no full-length album pressed. Fortunately for fans of Parrish’s jazzy, organic and hypnotic sounds, the record has not been allowed to become an obscure collector’s item — Ubiquity Records has re-released the record, full of organic textures and plodding, hypnotic beats. It’s equally beautiful and haunting, with grooves deep enough to lose yourself in completely.
Parallel Dimensions is a masterful record. “Anansies’ Dances” relies on ghostly whispered vocal samples serving as a rhythmic element, anchored only by the kick drum and watery background noise. The track gradually melds into a decidedly lighter piece with the addition of jazzy piano chords. “Serengeti Echoes” starts with a lively disco percussion line and uses cut-and-paste vocal and string samples drawn out over twelve minutes of tension and release. “Space Ghosts,” my favorite track from the album, is reminiscent of something you would hear from Matthew Herbert: heavily edited synths, cut up hi-hats, static or white noise used as a staccato rhythm element and edited string samples that add a slightly paranoid feel to the song.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous album, albeit one that was nearly relegated to the eBayers and crate diggers. Fortunately, due to the re-release, music aficionados, be they fans of jazz, house, hip-hop or otherwise, will be able to indulge in what is one of the best records I’ve had the pleasure to hear this year.