[22 March 2007]
San Francisco-based DJ/producer Miguel Migs, born Miguel Steward, grew up in Santa Cruz, California. Steward was playing guitar in Zion Sounds, a local reggae band, when he started producing tracks on his own. His first recording, the Mercury Lounge EP, was released in 1998 on La Casa Records, and, not long afterwards, tracks featuring his trademark mellow house music started making their way into DJ sets at clubs up and down the West Coast. Producing under a variety of names, including Petalpusher, L’isha, and his own name, Migs’ trademark organic, mellow house sound quickly became associated with Naked Music, the house label founded by fellow producer Jay Denes, though he started his own label, Salted Music, in 2004. Those Things is the long-awaited follow-up to his well-received debut full-length, Colorful You, released in 2002.
Inspired by old soul, funk, reggae, and hip-hop, Migs’ music incorporates a variety of live instrumentation, including the trumpet, congas, saxophone, guitar, and bass. The addition of live instrumentation to conventional electronics gives his work a warm, organic feel not usually associated with any kind of house music. Those Things also showcases stellar contributions from a diverse array of guest vocalists, including L.T. (also known as Aya, vocalist for Sweetback), Sadat X from Brand Nubian, longtime collaborator Lisa Shaw, Tim Fuller, Fred Ross from Sly and the Family Stone, and Junior Reid, frontman of reggae stalwarts Black Uhuru. Somewhat surprisingly, Migs is planning to support the release of Those Things by touring with a live band, taking Lisa Shaw, L.T., and Tim Fuller out on the road to perform a selection of material both new and old. Until those dates are announced, fans will have to make do with a few DJ dates across North America.
“So Far”, the first single, features beautiful vocals by L.T. (previously featured on “Sweeter Love” and “Love Yourself” by Blue Six, among others). Propelled by funky live bass, warm strings and acoustic guitar, its catchy vocal hook (“You’ve got me mesmerized”) is tough to get out of your head. With soon-to-be-released remixes by Rasmus Faber, Eric and Josh Heath, it will surely be filling up dancefloors worldwide in short order. Other highlights include the straight ahead yet still funky house of “Make Things Happen”, featuring vocals by Shaw, and the sax-laden groove of “Let Me Be”, featuring Ross.
Migs also takes some chances on this disc, again proving that he’s more adventurous than your typical DJ/producer. After all, when’s the last time you heard a reggae-inspired song on an electronic album? Here, Migs gets back to his reggae roots on the dub-influenced “Fire”, featuring Reid, yet somehow, it doesn’t really seem out of place. What’s more, he follows up the dubby groove of “Fire” with “Shake It Up”, featuring Sadat X rapping over a comparatively straight ahead house track. I haven’t taken this CD out of my player since it turned up in my mailbox last week, it’s that good. Experimental enough to be consistently interesting, yet firmly rooted on the dancefloor, Those Things is the first great electronica album of 2007, showcasing an adventurous, world-class producer at the top of his game.