One of the great tragedies of our time is the preponderance of musical variety. There’s just so much music, so many obscure labels and bedroom musicians, that it’s practicably impossible to experience everything you want to experience. If money were not an issue—and for those of us with slippery morals and broadband internet access, this is increasingly the case—it would still be impossible to listen to everything, even if you could possibly confine yourself to a singular specialized genre.
But variety is both a gift and a curse. We’ve all had the vertiginous and humbling sensation of standing in the middle of a well-stocked record store and despairing at ever being able to acquire everything of interest. But the flip side is the moment of joyous euphoria that accompanies the discovery of an entirely new artist, an entirely new sound that manages to recreate in a space of a single magic moment that thrill of invention, the electric trill that pricked your ears the first moment you really heard music.
Based solely on the evidence contained on this single disc, Theo Parrish possesses the kind of effortless musical ingenuity that threatens to overrun the barriers of a mere plastic disc. His music breathes and pulsates with life and vitality. It doesn’t sound like any house music I’ve ever heard before. I love house music, but I’d be the first to admit that it’s easy to get sick of house music. There just aren’t many producers and musicians in the genre with the sheer skill to recreate house music anew with every track—and that’s absolutely necessary. The shock of the new is so absolutely vital to the continued existence of electronic music that it’s practically hardwired into the DNA. But it’s terribly easy to produce bad house music—and Lord knows there’s enough unoriginal, uninteresting, derivative, repetitive, and just plain callow house filling the crates of DJs the world over.
So for those of us who love the genre, ingenuity and intelligence are especially important. A singularly good house song on the platter can redeem the genre anew—and an album’s worth of great house music can redeem your faith in humanity.
Theo Parrish’s biography betrays an allegiance to two of the three great American house dynasties. He was raised in Chicago but settled in Detroit. So Chicago’s murky, atmospheric soulfulness is present, in addition to the brawny intellectualism of Detroit-vintage techno. But there’s a lot more. You don’t have to scan the biography in order to detect the influence of artists as diverse as Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, and George Clinton—Parrish wears his influences proudly, dovetailing a cross-generic tradition of expansive composition to the ritualistically confining house template. Most importantly, Parrish understands how important it is for house music to sound different, to disturb the listener’s equilibrium in totally new and different ways.
This album sounds as if it were recorded in some sort of fuzzy Paleolithic prehistory. There’s a scratched-out dubby feel to many of the tracks. The sound bounces off dark and smoky cave walls lit by the torches of our distant ancestors before mingling with the tar and blood and ash of the past. The music sounds so convincingly well-aged that it’s impossible to reconcile the fact that this album was originally released in 2000, and that Parrish is in fact just 32 years old this year. Parallel Dimensions is the calling card of a prodigiously muscular musical talent. It’s easy to see why he was releasing tracks at the tender age of 13, and it’s also easy to see why he’s earned a Bachelor in Fine Arts in something called “Sound Sculpture”. That’s as good a word as any to describe what he does, because it’s nothing you’ve ever heard before.