PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Mark Grant: Sound Design Vol. 2

Andy Hermann

Mark Grant

Sound Design Vol. 2

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2001-07-17

In Chicago, the birthplace of house music, to establish your joint as one of the city's best house clubs is no small feat. But to do it for six years running, and on a Monday night, is downright unbelievable. That's what Mark Grant has achieved with his Red Dog club -- it's the place in the Windy City for househeads to lose themselves in a sweaty dancefloor reverie, and Grant, as resident, has established himself as Chicago's main man for marathon sets of booty-shaking, hands-in-the-air groovaliciousness.

How does all this translate to CD? Well, a double disc probably would have allowed Grant a little more room to flash his full sonic palette, but overall, Sound Design Vol. 2, his debut on San Francisco's excellent Om Records, is a pretty impressive achievement. Over the course of 16 tracks and 74 minutes, Grant takes his listeners on a journey through an amazing array of house styles -- old-school soulful, jazzy, funky, Latin and tribal. The conflicting styles occasionally clash, and not every track is a winner, but for most of the way Grant holds it all together with great energy and some truly kick-ass mixing skills.

Grant starts things off hard with the aggressive four-on-the-floor beat of Kaskade's "What I Say", a jazzy but classically soulful piece of Chicago-style house with great vocals courtesy of Rob Wannamaker. It's a smart opening track, smooth but irresistibly danceable, but Grant then makes the mistake of layering in too many intrusive spoken vocals early on -- a soul-shoutin' preacher on top of Le Grande Boofant's "Bacon Mohican", some identity politics blather on Mood II Swing's "Do It Your Way". C'mon, Mark, it's only track two -- we're still getting' into our groove here! Save the politics for later in the set.

Things start looking up on track four, a combination of Inland Knight's jazzy "Feel This Way" and the wonderful funky soul harmonies of Artist formerly known as Technique's "Clear". For the next few tracks Grant hopscotches around various styles, not really taking us anywhere but displaying more of his impeccable mixing skills. Grant habitually spins on three turntables, and it shows on Sound Design -- sounds that you thought had long since left the mix creep back in again, beats collide and layer in unexpected ways, long segues build and build and finally release into sparse breakdowns, before a new beat kicks in and propels your feet into another set of dance steps. It's rare in the world of vocal-based house to hear mixing this creative -- hopefully a lot of fledgling house DJs will take inspiration from Sound Design and learn to do more than just match their beats.

Sound Design really takes off with track seven, a layering of the horn lines from A Man Called Adam's "Qué Tal America" and the hard-driving congas and drums of Atmosfear's "Dancing in Outer Space". From this mostly acoustic launching pad, Grant goes on an inspired tear through one great track after another, mixing them flawlessly into an irresistibly ass-shaking segment. Milton Jackson's Latin-tinged "Can't Give You Up" dissolves into the more full-blown Brazilian vibe of "Deconstructed House (Phase 1)", a giddy Jerome Sydenham and Kerri Chandler track carried by the breezy guitar and vocals of Jania and some goofy monkey/talking drum sounds courtesy of Dennis Ferrer. Agora's "Jam Beneath the Groove" keeps the vibe alive with more Latin percussion folded into a juicy deep house groove, and from there Grant segues seamlessly into the jazzier terrain of M Trax's "Trip Chick". Together, these five tracks make for a fantastic ride.

If Grant's track selection were this strong throughout, Sound Design would be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, most of the latter part of Sound Design bogs down in songs that not even Grant's skills can stitch together in any sensible fashion. "Carajillo" is a typically interesting experiment in Afro-Caribbean-jazz-house fusion from Germany's brilliant Truby Trio, but it's out of place here, especially when it's followed up by the cheesy sax-and-diva R&B of Eddy and Dus' "Starlite". Chichi Peralta's "Un Día Más" and Osunlade's "Tree of Life" don't really belong here either -- they're unremarkable Latin and Afro-pop tunes, respectively, that tack on a house beat as a substitute for any real energy. Grant's closing track, the Pasadenas' "Round and Round", is more like it, a shamelessly disco-tinged, soulful number that ends things on a silly but grin-inducing note. Ultimately, I can forgive Grant his occasionally dubious track selection -- any DJ this talented is inevitably going to push the envelope, and for most of Sound Design that adventurous spirit pays off. No wonder Red Dog still packs them in on Monday nights.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.