House is a vibe; a feeling; a way of life. To a degree, you either feel it or you don’t. There are a lot of people who would probably say that they “like” house music, in the same way they might like any number of things—say, Chinese food or The Simpsons. These people show up at the club now and again, and maybe they have a Global Underground compilation or Daft Punk’s Homework in their binder—but for them house is just another in a hundred different lifestyle choices.
I suspect, from listening to Late Night With…, that Andy Caldwell has very explicitly created this disc for the other type of house fan. There aren’t any ready-made anthems or big singles on this disc. This is house at its most pure, house as sustained mood and luxuriant romanticism. People who want to dismiss house often say that it’s nothing more than disco in a new hat—well, to a degree they’re right. But disco never fostered the sense of community and fellowship that house does. For those who choose to adopt house as a way of life, and not merely just another lifestyle product, the grateful repetition of the 4/4 beat can be simply intoxicating.
You could probably say the same thing about any musical genre that has spawned a fervent fanbase. But there is something uniquely welcoming in the nature of house, in that most of the music has nothing to do with the type of braggadocio, violence or depression that you would find in hip-hop or metal or even indie rock. Certainly, there is still a fair amount of sexism, but at the very least women in house are objectified with less galling frequency than most other genres.
Which is all a roundabout way of saying that Late Night With Andy Caldwell is one of the most pure examples of unpretentious, irrepressible deep house I’ve come across in some time. This is a disc for house aficionados: I would not recommend this for first-timers or neophytes. The pleasures here are subtle, but hardly sparse.
Caldwell has been around since the mid-‘90s, producing singles for Om Records, Naked Music and Deep Dish’s own Yoshitoshi label. As you could expect from such a sterling CV, Caldwell’s sound is almost the archetype of what to expect from modern American deep house. This is smooth and sultry, with slight jazz flourishes but an overriding R&B flavor. American house is perpetually fond of the gospel-tinged diva vocal, be it male or female. Listen to the vocals on Spirit Catcher’s “Never Before” or Scape featuring D’Empress’ “Be My Friend”—these are the same sort of R&B vocal lines that could have been recorded at any point in the last thirty years. It adds something of a touch of class to the proceedings.
Which is not to say that the disc is deep house by rote. Caldwell knows enough to throw in a few interesting bits, like the French-sounding faux-disco of Mylo’s “Otto’s Journey” and the very New York garage-influenced Ronan’s Deep Moody Remix of his own “The Waiting Game”. But still, it would be disingenuous to say that there were any major stylistic departures. There are no klezmer breakdowns or guest raps by Missy Elliot. The flavors may vary slightly from track to track, but the overall feel is undeniably house of the deep and groovy variety.
Late Night With Andy Caldwell is hardly going to change the world, but it is definitely an auspicious debut for Swank’s new series. The liner notes promise that the next edition is mixed by none other than Phillie’s own King Britt: you best believe I’m looking forward to that one. But until then, we shall simply have to be content with this extremely well-done tribute to the fine art of the house DJ.