However many years I’ve been listening to 4/4 electronic dance music, I still find it impossible to define exactly what tech-house is. Techno and house cross over one another’s territory often enough, without having to have some sort of hybrid on top of that. So, to explain what tech-house is… listen to Robert Babicz and John Tejada, two of the genres pre-eminent producers, and decide for yourself what makes it the hybrid.
Looking at John Tejada’s latest offering, Where there are elements of both techno’s science fiction leanings and silky house seductions at different corners. “Desire” performs the public service of bringing back Nicolette, best known for her work with Massive Attack (remember “Sly”?) and 90s single “No Government”. Nicolette’s touch-of-grain vocals are a good counterpart to Tejada’s productions, minimal repetitions of blips and bleeps and the occasional house Rhodes licks. “Turning Point” and “Pivot” are the other high points, leaning more techno than house and pushing killer riffs through some interesting harmonic evolutions. The unfortunate flipside to this is that when Tejada introduces a line that isn’t so refreshing, it gets put through the same gauntlet of additions and tweaks, which exacerbates a mediocre idea like “Torque.”
Maybe tech-house is just techno with less of a serious edge, which is something Tejada excels at on Where. “When” features shimmering odd-harmonic synths to make Plaid blush, while “Moogbits” visits the grand tradition of making multi-tiered rhythms out of synth blips. It’s not a perfect ride, but when Tejada picks the right riff, Where excels.