Specter - Built To Last

  • An exceptional house LP from the respected Chicago artist.
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  • Andres Ordonez's two-decade career is a tale of low-key, long-term graft. The Chicago native began DJing in 1997, playing anywhere he could: at loft parties, clubs like smartbar and spots such as Mad Bar and Red Dog, where DJs spinning "the quintessential Chicago house sound," as one club programmer recalled, would start out. He began making music that same year, but his debut, a split 12-inch with his friend and mentor Damon Lamar, didn't emerge until 2001. (It was released on Tetrode, the label they've run together ever since.) Ordonez's A-side tracks, as Specter, reflected the city's deep house tradition without cribbing deferentially from it; he's cited the 1994 compilation Objets D'art, a mix of UK and Detroit techno, as a key influence. Lamar has referred to the tension in Ordonez's style as "deep jack," and the duo's series of Tetrode EPs contain other devastating examples of that sound—take "Mediterranean," a personal favourite, whose bells rattle through sunburnt bass and breezy pads like an anxious chill. Ordonez's formal association with Sound Signature began with a single-track 12-inch in 2010, though he and Theo Parrish met years earlier after a Three Chairs gig where, as Ordonez put it, Parrish "beat the club silly." "Pipe Bomb" was an oppressive brew of synthetic sounds and acrid atmospheres that suggested a radical change of direction. It wasn't, however, the result of some epiphany—Ordonez had been making tracks like this for years but hadn't the chance to release them. Since then his most out-there material has landed on Parrish's label, which is now releasing Ordonez's debut album, where old-school sensibilities mingle with abstract gestures. Built To Last's title is a nod to longevity, but the music's confident weirdness points to another product of experience: the perfect balance between studio wisdom and creative risk. The opener, "What Else You Do," sets a colourful scene. It starts with a kick, snare and the weak sinewave tone of an emergency broadcast signal. A rattling drum loop seems to navigate a steady yet precarious path, like a ball-bearing rolling through a Rube Goldberg machine. Ordonez's stern baritone—he's making some indistinct accusation—echoes in muddy waves. Bristly synth stabs brush through the bass. That might all sound chaotic, but Ordonez organises "What Else You Do"'s bits in a discreet hierarchy, and each element is distinct enough in the mix to feel essential. Other tracks are even knottier. "Tamarindo"'s pitter-patter drums and claps thrum beneath tense snare fills. Increasingly dense layers of synth, organs and bass follow, but the focal point, a triumphant synth lead, only emerges from the scrum after three minutes. There's an astringent depth, too, to "Jaws Of Life," whose gristly lead lines grind against each other, one never quite overpowering the other. The classic hue of Ordonez's early material is clearest on "Not New To This." The congas, kicks and shakers trace a clean, spacious groove. The pads and shakers draw directly from Ordonez's deep jack blueprint. Like many other tracks here, "Not New To This" takes its time to build to its midpoint peak—a piano riff, supported by a funky synth line, that lands on a warmly satisfying major chord. Fans of the early Tetrode era may also get some joy from "0829 Fifty Fifty," though Ordonez draws lightly from familiar techniques. Though the bass and keys unspool in catchy phrases, the backdrop reveals, variously, another indistinct vocal, the continuous flow of a water fountain and a spectral B-movie warble. But however weird Built To Last gets, it doesn't feel disconnected from what's come before. While making Built To Last, which took several years, Ordonez was balancing DJing and music production with family life and a full-time job. There's an oblique echo of this in one of two experimental interludes, "3000 Years." It's a trippy downbeat cut with vocal samples from "C/S," a 1983 disco rock track by Con Safos that sardonically assesses white settler betrayals in Los Angeles. ("We laid your railroad over trails that once were ours.") The bandleader, Rubén Funkahuátl Guevara, reflected recently on his memoir, Confessions Of A Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer, which documents his various struggles to get by as an artist facing everyday pressures. "I guess it's the story of perseverance," he said. The same could be said of Built To Last, an exceptional house LP from one of Chicago's most dedicated craftsmen.
  • Tracklist
      01. What Else You Do 02. Magnets On Wood 03. Tamarindo 04. 3000 Years 05. Jaws Of Life 06. Not New To This 07. 0829 Fifty Fifty 08. Sidewinder 09. Hunchback