Keith Worthy: The Price of Nonconformance
Aesthetic Audio

Like many a producer of long-standing, house and techno stylist Keith Worthy has developed some strong opinions over the years about the music business and the way it's marketed and packages its artists. So it's understandable that the Detroit DJ-producer would capitalize on the opportunity afforded by the release of his debut full-length to do something more than offer up an album's worth of dancefloor cuts. With that in mind, Worthy's fashioned The Price of Non-Conformance as a conceptual project that pairs six interludes with eight formal tracks, a move that prompts the listener to leave the fifty-three-minute set not only cognizant of Worthy's skills as a house producer but his provocative views, too (the politics of race and dance music labels arises in “Interlude 2,” for example).

In the album-opening “Interlude 1,” Worthy identifies scrutiny, judgment, and ostracism as the price one pays for non-conformance but then defiantly utters “Let's go,” as if to suggest that such trials are ultimately less important than staying true to oneself. Up next, the lustrous psychedelia of “Deeptroit” speaks powerfully on behalf of Worthy as a first-rank house producer in its artfully woven clusters of synthesizers, strings, and chugging beats. A similarly rich treatment re-emerges in “Guilty Pleasures” where multi-layers of cymbals, keyboard patterns, and bass pulses create a phantasmagoric swirl whose effect is dizzying.

A mid-song piano solo notwithstanding, the swing driving “Jazz” is more rooted in house than the genre associated with Monk or Marsalis, and, if anything, the bass lines that enter two minutes into the steamy cut have more to do with funk than house or jazz. “The Aesthetic Track” likewise serves up a funky slice of artful house, and “Leftfield” swings mightily, too, even if it's equally focused on enhancing its groove with radiant atmospheric detail.

To be honest, the music featured on the album, its title notwithstanding, is certainly not all that unorthodox or unusual by contemporary dance music production standards, and the eight non-interlude tracks, powered as they are by sleek house and techno grooves, go down easily. Based on the evidence at hand, Worthy's music fits comfortably within the traditions of Chicago house and Detroit techno. At the start of “Interlude 1,” a voice is heard—Worthy's, presumably—saying “All I ever wanted to be was myself, live out my own vision, move to my own rhythm…” The Price of Non-Conformance is the sound of him doing exactly that.

November 2014