Jon McMillion: Jon McMillion LP
Nuearth Kitchen

Jon McMillion inaugurates the boutique Nuearth Kitchen label with a fabulous collection of experimental dance-based music. Though McMillion (aka Wig Water Magic) has been producing electronic music for over fifteen years (and issuing it on quality labels like Orac, Adjunct, and Trapez), Jon McMillion LP is in fact his debut artist album. If the recording's title seems a tad unimaginative, its musical contents are anything but. McMillion masterfully weaves a plenitude of vocal samples, beats, and left-field sound design into fresh tracks that are tripped-out and head-spinning to say the least (the classically trained musican uses live drums, bass, piano, and guitar throughout the album). The collection is a sprawling affair of fifteen tracks, though the total number is different depending on format, with six and two tracks exclusive to the digital and CD formats, respectively. Taken as a whole, the release accounts for over two hours' worth of music, so there's a lot to dig into but all of it's worth one's time. Many tracks are in the eight-minute range but McMillion avoids repetition by infusing the tracks with a dizzying flow of invention and ideas.

The phantasmagoric “Groundmen” is representative of the material's dense character in its aquatic rush of soul vocal and spoken word samples, jacking house and rubbery bass pulses, and jazzy electric piano and electric guitar figures. Spurred on by a constant flow of invention, the track never loses steam despite tipping the scales at nine minutes. The title “I Can Feel It” might invoke associations with standard house music, but the track turns out to be a marvel of experimental design when McMilion sprinkles fragments of voices and instrument sounds throughout the mix. The way McMillion arranges the multiple snatches of vocal motifs in “Talking to the Night” calls to mind the similarly innovative approach Akufen brought to My Way (McMillion even sneaks in a guitar solo along the way). Traces of ‘70s disco and funk surface amidst the warm shimmer of “Rotobaby” and its lightly swinging blend of triangles, congas, and handclaps. One shouldn't overstate the abstract dimension too much, however. McMillion's not averse to body music's sensual charms, as the strutting house-funk groove powering “In Closing” and the pumping robo-funk drive of “Silvio” make clear. Also memorable are “Mane,” with its latin-funk swing and sparkle; “Sung Me Yup,” a blend of starry-eyed space-dub and transporting future-funk; and “Saw You Looking Up (Stop and Go),” an alluring house jam with a soulful edge.

Informed by dance music strategies associated with house, techno, and funk but hardly contained by them, McMillion's vision is too grand to be held captive by the conventions that others are only too eager to embrace. Producing material so idiosyncratic and left-field means that he'll probably never be the most popular electronic dance music artist—but that's a good thing, artistically speaking, and for listeners too. It's advanced and esoteric music—cerebral techno, if you will—that's satisfying for the mind and body.

September 2010