[6 April 2004]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
British ex-pat DJ Garth has long been a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area scene, and he serves a tasty dish of four-to-the-floor deep house on Revolutions in Sound. If by the end of this hour-plus continuous mix you’re not uncontrollably moved to close your eyes and shake your ass, you have surely been born without a sense of groove.
Groove is what it’s all about for DJ Garth. He’s not content to merely let a rhythm thump for seven or eight minutes; he sends it through effects, filters it, layers it, and generally makes sure it puts you in a different state of mind. About half the tracks here are Garth creations, many under the Rocket name he used for his now-defunct collaboration with Eric James. By showcasing so much of his own material, Garth isn’t showing hubris. He’s just giving you some of the best, most mind-blowing house music that’s out there. And the other tracks he selects from his Grayhound label are only slightly less essential.
Stranger’s “Figures on a Wall” kicks off Revolutions on a fairly mellow, jazzy note. Yet even here there are spacey Star Trek-inspired whooshes, bleeps, and other sound effects that establish an eerie, almost menacing presence just beneath the mix, a presence that keeps the tracks from just slipping in and out of your mind. By the time Joshua Collins’s “Never Let Go” kicks in with a two-note electro bassline, you’re completely out of the friendly confines of Just Another DJ mix.
Revolutions just keeps getting crazier and crazier as it goes along, adding layers of beats, percussion and dub—then breaking them down and building them back up again. “I Know What You Mean” by Ambusher is a smooth but persuasive bit of disco, while Community Recordings’ “Lifted Soul” gets heavy on the Latin and African percussion without messing around with “world music”. Just as impressive as Garth’s music and track selection is his ability to modulate the mood and tone of the mix. Even though he’s dealing with some complex, tripped-out material, he always sounds completely in control behind the decks.
Nowhere is that more evident than during the four-song climax that begins with DJ Rasoul’s hard and funky “Transitions”. Next up is Revolutions’ centerpiece, a new mix of Garth’s classic “Twenty Minutes of Disco Glory”. Other than lasting only about five minutes, the track completely lives up to its title. Built on a truly mean electro bassline, “Twenty Minutes ” manages to take everything that was great about ‘80s R&B and hip-hop, the Hi-NRG dance movement, and Space Invaders and distill it into an irresistible, unrelenting head-trip. Think Prince at his most experimental and danceable on acid. Rocket’s “Revolution” carries on in that psychedelic vein, with what sounds like a Light Saber battle taking place while some truly ill flute plays over the top. Garth’s “Anthem #1” then proves that the man truly knows his secondhand record bins by nabbing the bassline from ‘80s cult eurodisco act Shreikback’s “My Spine (Is the Bassline)”.
Just as Garth has carefully worked things into this fever pitch, he gradually takes it back down over the album’s final five tracks, not that he lets things get any less interesting. Audio Soul Project’s “Gettin’ tha Feeling” is about what Jimi Hendrix would have sounded like had he played synthesizer instead of guitar. Markie Mark & Garth’s “The Price” ends things with that same sense of menace. The track is reminiscent of nothing so much as industrial boogie men Skinny Puppy, only with spoken-word vocalist Nkosazana taking the place of found samples.
Revolutions in Sound has plenty of floor-fillers to make it a hit at the club. But it’s also house music for those who usually like to explore the more experimental realms of electronica. Garth sums it up best in his cheesy yet sincere liner notes, saying, “No easy answers but this we know for sure… above all else music has the power to connect people.” Right on.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/djgarth-revolutions/