What is house music? That sounds like a question that might have come booming from loudspeakers in Chicago circa 1989, but it’s just as legitimate today. The term has been watered down to mean just about anything that has a 4/4 beat and doesn’t fit into another convenient sub-genre. Tom Bioly and Benji Fröhlich’s Permanent Vacation label aims to get back to when house music was a proper noun.
Their second label showcase, If This Is House I Want My Money Back 2, doesn’t quite emulate the slinky Chicago days. However, it is a throwback to a more considered, less frenetic type of four-on-the-floor dance music. Clean synthesizers, asthmatic electronic bass lines, and Roland 808s are all heavily featured. It’s a welcome sound, subdued, yet with more feeling than “tech-“, “deep-” or “minimal” house. Mano Le Tough’s “Let’s Not Talk About Love” recalls the New Order 12-inches of the mid-1980s, while Pional’s “Just Passing Through” is full-on groovy. At its least inspired, If This Is House I Want My Money Back 2 sounds like a thrown-together collection of ’80s and ’90s signifying sounds, but quite often, it rises above mere nostalgia to reach the sublime.