VA: In The Dark: The Soul Of Detroit
First things first: In The Dark: The Soul Of Detroit isn't a new compilation but instead a reissue from 2005, specifically a repress of the first full-length issued by Still Music. A document of the cultural life-force flowing through the Motor City, the twelve-track recording features work by producers associated with Detroit's underground electronic scene, and artists such as Amp Fiddler, Rick ‘The Godson' Wilhite, Mike Huckaby, and Kenny Dixon Jr. (Moodymann) appear. The project also includes In The Dark: Voices, a thirty-minute film by Chris Bravo featuring exclusive footage and interviews with Ron Trent, Huckaby, and Franki ‘DJ 3000' Juncaj, among others.
Though there's a thematically cohesive feel to the project, the material itself resists easy pigeonholing; though techno, house, and jazz obviously are present in the album's intoxicating jams, it's soul and funk that form the connecting thread. Three standouts are remixes by Amp Fiddler, the first of which is Courtney Jackson's “Everybody,” which eases the listener in with a luscious track that finds her warm voice supported by sweetly cooing background vocals, a tasty bass pulse, and even a smattering of vintage clavinet funk. Amp Fiddler also gets his hands all over Patchworks' “Sugar,” which drapes a Sly Stone-like drawl across a crisp, ‘70s-styled funk backdrop built from gospel organ, electric piano, and a George Benson-styled guitar lick. Anetria Wright's “The Feeling of Love” revisits the soulful vocal vibe of “Everybody” to end the set on a high note.
Also strong is Delano Smith's effervescent house anthem “Hot-N-Funky,” its tight, jacking swing powered by a bouncy bass pulse and bright keyboards. A free-wheeling piano solo pushes the soul-funk jam “Ecoutez” by Keith Worthy and Malik Alston into an acoustic jazz zone, and that jazzy side also comes to the fore during Wilhite and Dixon Jr.'s “Bosmos,” which is as much a relentless Latin jam as jazz, and during Huckaby's “Melodies From The Jazz Republic,” even if it's rolling, percussion-heavy groove is largely rooted in classic house and techno. Raybone Jones, Marcellus Malik Pittman, and Wilhite join forces for the lumbering, slow-motion gurgle of “In The Dark,” which could pass for a sickly Drexciya outtake. Though the album is clearly worthy of attention, one caveat is that some tracks stretch out a tad too long. Pittman's “A Walk Thru Osaka” is an interesting enough walk to be sure, but its repetitiveness becomes all the more noticeable in a nine-minute presentation, and Wilhite's “Magic Water” and “Cosmic Jungle” by Wilhite and S. Ingram also would have benefited from some judicious pruning.