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Review: Various artists, '122 BPM: The Birth of House Music'

August 07, 2012|By August Brown
(Still Records )

Various artists

"122 BPM: The Birth of House Music"

Still Records

Three Stars

Like many micro-genres that become movements, the descriptor of "house music" has lost a lot of its meaning. Today, kids at raves take it to mean almost any kind of four-on-the-floor dance tune built with synthesized instruments. But the now-omnipresent genre came from a specific time, place and culture, and the lovingly assembled "122 BPM: The Birth of House Music" should help clear the air.

Over three CDs, this compilation and album-length mixtape from Still Music's Jerome Derradji tells of the invention of a new dance music template -- one forged in the Chicago black middle class by kids influenced by the '80s New Wave movement. Compiled from the vaults of Mitchbal and Chicago Connection records (a father-and-son label combo at the center of the genre's birth and inspired by Berry Gordy), it's both an expertly curated historical document and a total party record.

Derradji's well-paced album mix best approximates the feel of the era's house clubs, but the individual tracks show the seeds of a sound to come. The sweet pianos and soul vocals of Mitchbal & the Housemaster's "When I Hear the Music"; the lascivious city-noir of Z Factor’s "(I Like to Do It in) Fast Cars" -- all these things are in the DNA of nearly every track on top-40 and dance festivals around the world. It proves that house music is specific and nuanced, but also, that house music is everything today.

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