Gareth Whitehead: The Brood
Bulletdodge Records

Bulletdodge main man Gareth Whitehead elevates his debut album The Brood well above the norm by doing something as bold as it is admirable, and the musical rewards that result are plentiful. The concept driving the project involves Whitehead honouring a number of key house and techno pioneers, and, even better, all of the 109-minute release's tracks are collaborations. As a result, The Brood turns into a history lesson of a sort, albeit the kind of history lesson you'll want to sit in on.

Whitehead pays homage to Detroit techno and Chicago house by bringing Eddie Fowlkes, Marshall Jefferson, and Robert Owens aboard, and honours the New York and UK techno scenes by featuring Lenny Dee, Frankie Bones, Carl Cox, and Darren Emerson. Whitehead not only acknowledges the contributions of originators but also nods in the direction of new talent such as P-Ben and Andy Slate. With so many different names and styles involved, Whitehead was wise to use the same production gear throughout, specifically Ableton Live 9 and a Neve VR60/48 mixing console, to ensure consistency would be present from start to finish.

With Tom Taylor on hand, “The Beginning” inaugurates the collection on a hard-grooving high, especially when the collaborators drape a haunting vocal chorus across the charging tune's funky house pulse. An enticing future-funk vibe emerges during “What I Say,” which Inxec and Whitehead spike with earcatching vocal accents and burbling house chords. In addition, Slate's collab “Sustain” swells during its seven-minute run into a gyroscopic panorama of spacey vocal swirl and slinky house rhythms, and Michael Greig seduces with the slow-burning techno-funk of “About Time.”

To a large degree, the originators give master classes in techno and house production: while it might not be the best vocal Owens ever recorded, “How Can I” is nevertheless distinguished by the singer's unmistakably soulful presence; Fowlkes brings skills refined over many decades to his classy “Upsurge”; Cox and Steve Ward ensure the floor will stay filled with the steamy “Give Me Something”; and with Lenny Dee and Frankie Bones acting as co-pilots, “E2X” subjects the listener to eight clockwork minutes of pounding drums, distorted voice effects, and dive-bombing synth fire. The release boasts muscular floor-fillers aplenty, among them collabs with Mash (“In Mind”), X-Press 2 (“Why”), and Ben Long (“Glitz”), and Whitehead smartly differentiates between the sixteen cuts by featuring vocals on a good number of them.

June 2015