- In 2014 Theo Parrish took his new live show on the road. It wasn't the first time he'd been involved with live performance—he was playing shows with his Rotating Assembly ten years back—but this was Parrish putting himself out there, front and centre, performing his own material on stage with a band. This was Theo Parrish the musician, not Theo Parrish the producer or Theo Parrish the DJ. The idea of musicianship, of creating everything from scratch, also drives American Intelligence, Parrish's first solo full-length since 2007. For someone whose back catalogue is littered with examples of clever sampling, Parrish has distanced himself from sampling as an art form, explaining to Slices this year that "As I grew older, [I began] respecting what I was sampling and editing." So you won't find many nifty samples on American Intelligence—it's all Parrish's music, and the vocals come from Parrish himself, or Ideeyah, an important cog in his live show.
American Intelligence forms a kind of companion piece to the live show. It's presented in two versions: the triple-vinyl version, which clocks in at nine tracks, and the more unwieldy 15-track double-CD, which sags heavily as the second disc wears on. The tracks that Parrish performed live this year provide American Intelligence with its strongest moments. There's "Footwork," an irresistible call to dance floor and one of 2014's best singles, "Ah," with Ideeyah on vocals, is sweet and mostly drum-free, and "Be In Yo Self," equals anything in Parrish's catalogue in terms of groove and depth. The drums skitter on "Drive," on which Theo asks, "Where's your drive? Has it died? It keeps me alive." It sounds like a question posed to people around him—lazy DJs, unadventurous live acts, a music press he feels is suffering. "Life Spice's" stuttering loop makes it sound like an Ugly Edit of "Miss You" by The Rolling Stones, while "Welcome Back" is a three-minute imagining of a trip to the grocery store interrupted by a traffic cop, played out by Parrish and backed by belligerent drums.
The three rhythmically complex tracks that open the second disc of the CD version—"Cypher Delight," "There Here," "Thug Irony"—rumble on for a combined 20 minutes, and in truth they don't justify the length. American Intelligence is not as easy to love as Parrish's best 12-inches, records often defined by their samples—the orchestral Blade Runner sample in "Solitary Flight," the Mass Production sample on "Lake Shore Drive" all those years ago, the entire Ugly Edits series—but it's the next chapter for an artist who isn't interested in repeating himself.
A2 Cypher Delight
B1 Ah feat. Marcellus Pittman, Ideeyah & Duminie Deporres
C1 Make No War
D1 Fallen Funk
E1 Be In Yo Self feat. Ideeyah & Duminie Deporres