Esteban Adame: Day Labor
EPM Music

Day Labor impresses on multiple counts: it's diverse in terms of genres tackled but more critically a polished recording of consistently superior quality. One great tune follows another, and the listener comes away with the highest impression of Esteban Adame's skill set. A glance at his CV says much: the LA-based producer has released material on Carl Craig's Planet E and is also a member of the Underground Resistance live act Galaxy to Galaxy, plus part of the six-piece ensemble Thee Afterdark.

The album comes to life with a radiant, ambient-styled overture, “Rise and Shine,” whose shimmering chords offer hopeful promise for the day ahead. But don't think for a moment that Day Labor is an ambient collection; the effervescent second track, “Out to Get It,” indicates that Adame's album has its sights firmly set on the dancefloor. With hints of trance and rave in its DNA, the sleek tune engulfs the listener with a thumping mix of fleet-footed beats, burbling melodic fragments, and enveloping synth washes. Disregard the dispiriting connotations of the third track's title, “The Grind,” and instead bask in the acidy flow of its dubby cosmic-disco, whose bass throb is so hard-hitting one might just as easily label the tune industrial-techno.

There are moments on the album when Detroit techno and Chicago house influences emerge, such as during the dizzying throwdown “Paraphernalia” and hard-swinging, jazz-tinged “Handed Down” (replete with a vivacious keyboard solo), but reference-related considerations tend to pale into insignificance when club workouts such as the pile-driver “Home Sick” and irrepressible “The Reason” are so dynamic on their own naked terms. And unlike some full-lengths that fade in their closing laps, Day Labor maintains its high energy until the end in the form of two glorious scene-stealers, the hyperventilating “Another Day” and late-night anthem “Friday Night DUI.”

If the song titles suggest a typical worker's day in the life, so to speak, that's consistent with the album's backstory: Adame once had a studio in a downtown LA warehouse, which was next to a hardware store where day labourers gathered in the hope of getting construction work. He soon came to realize that his life, no matter its challenges, was easy by comparison and so decided to dedicate the album to day labourers everywhere. As should be obvious by now, the hour spent listening to the album proves to be anything but a nine-to-five slog. It's more, in fact, emblematic of the kind of high-calibre club music such workers might look forward to as a form of release from the workday grind.

April 2014