Mr. Fingers - Cerebral Hemispheres

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  • Larry Heard is one of the best to ever do it. He's been making classics since the mid-'80s, hand-playing the bassline on "Mystery Of Love" soon after he acquired some basic kit. His musical innovations elevated Chicago house to an art form and imbued dance music with a sense of deepness that audiences and producers alike remain fixated on more than three decades later. His rich catalogue is full of timeless music, and he's delivered floor-fillers ("The Sun Can't Compare") and workhorse dance tracks ("Outer Acid") throughout his career. It's because of all this that the arrival of Cerebral Hemispheres, his first album as Mr. Fingers in 24 years, feels like a momentous occasion. (As a triple LP that's nearly two hours long, it's scaled accordingly.) It's split into two distinct halves: the first 50 minutes or so are dedicated to his own slow-burn vocal jams, and the slightly longer second half contain various dance floor productions, including lightly edited versions of his excellent 2016 EP, Mr. Fingers 2016. A Mr. Fingers album that fails to deliver a handful of new classics would naturally feel like a disappointment. Some may feel that way about the vocal tracks, which take their time to settle into themselves. The LP opens with "Full Moon"'s deep, loping groove, overlaid with Heard's own vocals, which succeed to varying degrees across the LP. There's some awkward enjambment on "Crying Over You," but the arrangement and addictive pulse are strong enough to make it an album highlight. Mostly, Heard's concerned with setting a mood. The LP's vocal half is taken up by languid travelogues and tracks that fall somewhere between deep house and smooth jazz. Heard's arranged a crew of skilled players—Christopher Charles Jones on "City Streets," Ed Finney on "Urbane Sunset," tenor saxophonist Zachary McElwain on three tracks—who perform generous solos over smooth house grooves. At times, they sound like a lounge band. "Sands Of Aruba" and "A Day In Portugal" are plodding deep house instrumentals intended to transport us to exotic beaches without ever going anywhere. But "Tiger Lounge"'s casual guitar groove and "Sao Paulo"'s sprightly bassline break things up nicely. The album's dance side is similarly spotty. The four tracks from the 2016 EP stand out, and "Inner Acid," presumably the inverse of "Outer Acid," is the best straight-ahead dance track on the record, Heard's subtle percussive delays complementing a catchy yet alien 303 groove. But he makes confusing diversions into dub on "Spy" and "Stratusfly." The former combines melodica-driven dub and espionage soundtrack fare, while the latter's melodica riff recalls the motif from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Weird. Nicole Wray's vocal on "Praise To The Vibes" helps end the LP on a high note. The lyrics about shopping and social media may seem superficial—"Woke up this morning / Got about 100 likes... Falling in love is what we should be doing / shopping at Neiman and Marcus and Bloomings'"—but the vocal's smoothness complements Heard's joyful track. Though it's billed as the return of Mr. Fingers, Cerebral Hemispheres feels like a culmination of all the music he's made as Larry Heard. It's a long tour through deep vocal tracks, like 2001's Love's Arrival LP, the sci-fi soundscapes of Alien, the two personality-focused albums he released as Mr. Fingers, Introduction and Back To Love, and 2005's Soundtrack From The Duality Double-Play, another double-LP split into jazzy house and acid tracks. While Heard's been the architect behind some of house music's best albums—Fingers Inc.'s Another Side, for example—most of his LPs show his love of prog and fusion. In other words, they've been lengthy, ambitious full-lengths with an array of singles sprinkled throughout. Cerebral Hemispheres is exactly that. Whatever its flaws, it's a solid entry in a legendary discography.
  • Tracklist
      01. Full Moon 02. City Streets 03. Urbane Sunset 04. Sands Of Aruba 05. Tiger Lounge 06. A Day In Portugal 07. Sao Paulo 08. Crying Over You 09. Cerebral Hemispheres 10. Electron 11. Outer Acid 12. Inner Acid 13. Spy 14. Stratusfly 15. Nodyahed 16. Quazars 17. Aether 18. Praise To The Vibes