Only a select few outsiders have managed to gate crash Smallville's familial crew to date, but that Chicago's Steven Tang is the next chosen one makes perfect sense. His filmic brand of punchy deep house sits perfectly with the likes of Smallpeople and Christopher Rau, but at the same time brings with it new influences. Where the Hamburg stable's output is best summed-up as earthy and cuddly, Tang is more on a futurist and spacey tip; his mood is one of sombre loneliness rather than curious romanticism, as you'd expect of someone from the fabled Windy City. As such, his long matured debut album (some of the tracks here are separated by 15 years) provides the most explicit link yet between Smallville and one of the cities that inspired it.
Disconnect To Connect is a classic tryst of Chicago jack with Detroit soul, but in no way is it just an exercise in nostalgia: there's too much personality in there for that. Much like everything to which he's put his name since debuting in 1998, Tang's vulcanised baselines whip and snap; his synths blurt and bleep with a deep space energy of their own and the percussion is always frantically busy. Listen closely and things are programmed frantically but freely; elements are layered on top of each other at different depths but are then carefully frayed in a fine mist to soften the impact.
This is not roughhewn and lo-fi for the sake of it, either. The crushed sounds suit the often melancholic mood. And neither is it a trick to cover up lax production, because there is plenty of character in the kicks and snares of tracks like "It's Perceived As Sound." The first and last tracks, too, bookend the whole thing in archetypal sci-fi ambiance so acutely forlorn it hurts without you really knowing why.
That synth serenity is one of many tricks up Tang's sleeve on an album that toys with tempo and tension just the right amount across its nine fully formed tracks. He can do raw and corrugated ("Heat Burst") spluttering and off-kilter ("Some Solace") or militant and direct ("Potential Light") with equal élan. Each track very much takes you to a different part of the same world so that before long you forget that you're listening to house music at all.