- As an artist and a person, Kyle Hall grew up fast. He released his first 12-inch at the age of 16, and was quickly hailed as Detroit's next great house producer, endorsed by local icons like Theo Parrish and Omar-S. By the time we profiled him in 2009, he'd produced dozens of tracks, launched his own label (Wild Oats) and was getting booked around the world. A few years later, he'd already developed a wary view of the dance music culture he was now a part of. In 2013, he released The Boat Party, an album he says "was about the appropriation of black music from a disenfranchised city juxtaposed with luxury European club culture and boat parties."
Hall's second album, From Joy, harks back to simpler times. It collects eight recordings from before 2010, when he was still a teenager living at his dad's place, free to spend countless hours making tracks in the basement. The house was on Joy Street in Detroit, but the "joy" in the title refers to more than that. "For me, the idea of joy is an individual's experience of freedom," Hall recently told The Fader. "For many, it can be seen as a return to youth. Not having obligations gives you a certain weightlessness that allows for continued creativity."
From Joy clearly emanates from a mind at ease. Throughout the album, there's not a grey cloud in the sky—the melodies are soaring, the rhythms upbeat, the overall mood one of total optimism. Many of Hall's other records show him mutilating his influences into strange and almost unrecognizable sounds. Here, he channels them more faithfully, with clear echoes of funk, jazz and soul adding to the carefree feel.
As usual with Hall, the compositions are raw in a way that makes you picture him banging them out on an MPC. The parts hang together loosely but reliably, like players in a band. Off-kilter loops form a shimmering backdrop for live improvisations, mainly on rich pianos and buttery synths. Though Hall says jazz wasn't a conscious influence on the record, its rhythms have that rollicking flow. On "Damn! I'm Feelin Real Close," stuttering kick drums follow tattoos of snare hits, with the two parts never falling on the downbeats. "Wake Up And Dip" is a weightless swirl of strings, piano and upright bass, with hardly a kick drum to speak of. Most of the tracks ride swung house grooves, but "Able To" and "Inverse Algebraic" are slower and more syncopated. "Dervenen," one of the album's more streamlined tracks, has the delirious motion of someone rushing down a flight of stairs.
At face value, From Joy is wall-to-wall good vibes, but there's a streak of melancholy to it as well. For Hall, these tracks capture a time and a state of mind that's gone forever—the "weightlessness" of youth he felt before the pressures of adulthood bore down on him. Back then, he couldn't have known that one day, having made it as an artist, he'd long for those sessions in his father's basement. And yet here he is, trawling through recordings of his younger self, enshrining them in this lovingly packaged LP. As a house album, From Joy is as bright and colorful as the painting on its cover, but it's also something bittersweet: an ode to an era gone too soon.
A1 Damn! I'm Feelin Real Close
A2 Inverse Algebraic
C1 Able To
C2 Wake Up And Dip
D1 Strut Garden
E1 Mysterious Lake
F1 Feel Us More