Album Reviews

Houses – All Night

(Lefse) UK release date: 18 October 2010

For a genre that’s almost synonymous with fist-pumping good times, alot of electronic music really finds its strength in wistfulness, doubtand melancholia. Mixed emotions work well to a dance beat; think LCDSoundsystem‘s Someone Great, Junior Boys‘ So This isGoodbye, Gorillaz‘ On Melancholy Hill, Hot Chip‘s Boy From School, Cut Copy‘s Out There On The Ice… hell, evenDepeche Mode could get a little weepy. Dancefloor bangers havetheir place, but the tracks that dare venture outside of therelative safety that realm offers have often been more resonating.

Sohere’s Houses, a mysterious Chicago-based group of electro-acousticauteurs who make a delicate brand of dreamy, organic IDM (Intelligent Dance Music, in case you didn’t know, is not only a subgenre but also gets an abbreviation). Their recordAll Night, appropriately recorded at a time of uprooted love, is oneof those few danceable albums you can rightfully describe as tender. Itloops like Dntel but it swoons like Mazzy Star, and itmakes for a good listen.

The circumstances surrounding All Night’s recording are these. A laid-off producer who, in seeking a change, moves with hisgirlfriend to an incredible though remote part of Hawaii (we’re talking ‘no runningwater’ remote) learns how to live sustainably – they showeredwith rain water, gathered solar energy – all the while recordingthe songs that would eventually become All Night. Naturally, most ofthe textures on the record reflect that quiet intimacy. It’s verysubdued, almost hypnagogic in form, the man singing (the group haskept themselves completely anonymous) sounds distant, faded into themusic itself. The band creates an aura of time-worn peacefulness,something that probably goes hand in hand with drinking rainwater.

All Night is a record that finds beauty in the naturalisticday-to-day life of living off the land, and nothing here sounds evenremotely mechanical. The songs sound like they came straight from theground, born out of nature rather than synthesizers. It’s odd for an albumwhose closest relatives include Boards Of Canada and AphexTwin to sound so identifiably natural. Houses range from tropicalBalearic beats (Endless Spring) to sleepy multi-tracked ambience(Medicine) but it all sounds completely in line with the world they try to create.

If All Night has a meaning, it’s something to do with theindecipherable and mind-bending truth that the cycles of earth areconstantly replenishing, and when left unblemished by human contact,are some of the most gorgeous things you could ever bear witness to.It’s a recording of someone paying tribute to the gifting and caringmother nature, which actually makes it rather pagan. He takesman-made machines – synthesizers and drum machines – and returns themto the organic world through the power of his compositions. It’s quite a sobering thought. But you don’t need that narrative toenjoy All Night; the music stands up for itself anywhere, no matterthe level of humanity. And that’s a sign of a great record.

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Houses – All Night