Deep house is an amiable and pleasing genre, but it lacks the capacity for surprise that fuels musical epiphany. This is the type of music that works best through cumulative effect.
If there is one DJ whose style could be said to epitomize the deep house sound, it would probably have to be Miguel Migs. Migs was chosen to appear on the very first release by deep house institution Naked Music, all the way back in 1998, and in the years since his distinctive style has become almost synonymous with that label's. In a Eurocentric electronic music climate, the success of Migs' deep house sound stands out as a rare example of American initiative.
Salted is Migs' own label, formed last year and dedicated to the release of his own productions, as well as those of simpatico artists. Appropriately enough, the first volume in the (presumably) ongoing Get Salted series prominently presents three Salted tracks. The mix begins with the Migs mix of Chuck Love's "Back in My Life", a characteristically innocuous example of deep house's low-key demeanor. A soulful R&B vocal line is set against a mid-tempo groove with some faint saxophone riffs floating through the chorus. Like most deep house, it doesn't try to fill every square inch with motion: there's a lot of space and no small bit of sensual languor. This track segues into the Simon Gray dub of KOT's "Thru", a slightly more energetic track that replaces the jazzy vibe of "Back in My Life" with a touch of '70s funk, with thick, loping basslines and spare, anxious guitar.
Most of the disc steers fairly close to the template of these opening tracks. The relative distance between jazz and funk provides the motor that drives most deep house, with the constant presence of soulful vocal tracks serving to connect the genre with more historical blends of house. A track like the Realm House mix of "One Chance" by The Realm and V takes a rather exotic techno synthesizer riff, sets it atop a smooth, rolling beat and adds a soulful male vocal, and the effect is not unlike what you would expect Stevie Wonder to create if he ever made a house record.
This consistency can be both a blessing and a curse. As with much electronic music, the repetition that gratifies the diehard fans can alienate the generalist. Deep house is an amiable and pleasing genre, but it lacks the capacity for surprise that fuels musical epiphany. This is the type of music that works best through cumulative effect.
Take Li'sha's "Feel", one of the disc's other Salted tracks. It's a nice song, and points toward a successful career for Li'sha as a deep house "diva". But it stays uncannily close to the absolute median of emotional engagement necessary to push the song forward -- there are no deep hooks or sudden changes like you would expect in a more demonstrative freestyle or disco tune. The vocal elements in deep house are invariably low-key, and this unwillingness to advance beyond a certain simmering emotive status quo will serve as a deterrent to some.
There are a few tracks that manage to deliver more engaging emotional thrust. Bustin' Loose's "Like This" delivers a surprisingly combative beat and a refreshingly wild saxophone solo. The Littlemen's "Down with It" is also more propulsive than average. Towards the end of the disc Migs veers in a slightly tech-influenced direction, with tracks like "Dust" by Recloose providing an interestingly stripped-down and synthetic variation on the usual deep house R&B template. The Swag mix of Sean Dimitrie and Tim Fller's "So Hot" injects a small smattering of cut-and-paste glitch techno.
Migs is a talented DJ, and Get Salted is filled with examples of his compellingly long and involved transitions. Ultimately, however, the success of this disc will depend on just how much you like deep house. Its virtues -- consistency and subtly -- can be easily interpreted as vices. There's nothing here that stands out as more -- or less -- than a characteristic example of the genre.