- Looking back on what might be the greatest minimal house loop of all time.
- Rewind is a review series on RA that dips into electronic music's archives to dust off music from decades past.
Jennifer Witcher produced "A Walk In The Park" in the 45 minutes it took her husband to go grocery shopping with their baby daughter. "The entire thing," she laughed over Skype from Detroit last week. "I named it 'A Walk In The Park' because I did it so fast."
Released on the Airborne EP in August 2003, this five-minute masterpiece was a minimal house anthem, loved by scene-leading DJs like Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos, who played the track at almost every gig for months. It was re-released on Minus in 2004, where it was remixed by several big-name acts (Magda, Matthew Dear, Josh Wink, Villalobos). But no version worked better than the original, which you can still hear in DJ sets today. The groove worked so well that Hawtin, Witcher told me, once looped it for 17 minutes.
"It's the driving bassline," she said. "That's what people remember." That bassline, a series of deep, powerful tones that dart between the tropical percussion, is as effective now as it was 15 years ago. Catchy and energetic, it soundtracked afterhours, intimate warm-up sets and heaving clubs, appropriate for just about any dance floor a DJ could find themselves soundtracking. The percussion is nimble, with hand drums that provide an easygoing shuffle. The track is as lean as house music gets, but that didn't stop it from becoming an anthem.
"It was the height of the minimal era," Magda, who had been friends with Witcher for years, told me. "I think the track is of that time—very funky, but still stripped down. It has that funky groove, which is probably why Richie fell in love with it."
Hawtin first heard the track when Ricardo Villalobos, a DJ who specialises in tasteful house loops, played the Airborne EP during one of their many back-to-back sets. According to Witcher, Hawtin "almost broke his neck" leaning in to see its title. As Witcher tells it, he promptly bought all the copies in every record shop they could find, and started looking for the woman responsible. "He wanted to know who did my distribution, and what kind of help I was getting," Witcher said. "Because people didn't really know about the track."
People soon found out. It was remastered and given a wider release by Minus the following June, its sound soon stretching far beyond the original 200 copies Witcher self-pressed, partly thanks to the high-profile remixers. "It was a huge hit," Magda said.
But it was a while until Witcher saw the track's dance floor potential. Magda brought the record to a Hawtin gig in Windsor, his home city across the river in Canada. Witcher arrived just as he was finishing his set. "He gave me a hug and said, 'I just played your track, but I'm going to play it again—I want you to see what it does to people,'" Witcher recalled."I was floored. I sat and watched him play it and loop it, loop it and loop it, and the crowd was absolutely bonkers. I couldn't believe it. Because with me—little old me—playing my tracks, I didn't get the same kind of impact Richie did."
That impact is best heard on a well-tuned soundsytem with ample low-end power, which brings the bassline—composed on a Midiman Oxygen8 used as a MIDI controller—to the foreground. "If anyone comes to me and tells me about this track—'What's this track you made that goes do-do-do-dum?'—it's the thing they pick up."
It's unlikely "A Walk In The Park" would have the same impact if it were released today. "Times are different," Magda said. "Everything is big these days." But that should't stop you from trying to work "A Walk In The Park" into your sets, especially if you're the kind of DJ who values slow builds and smooth transitions. Produced in under an hour, it was an unlikely hit that united dance floors with crafty drums and a catchy bassline, elements essential to so much timeless house music.
And what happened after she finished the track? "By time my husband got back, I'd also done a load of laundry."
A1 A Walk In The Park
A2 A Walk In The Park (Minx's On The Slide Mix)
B1 A Walk In The Park (Matthew Dear's Park Closes At Dusk Mix)
B2 A Walk In The Park (Magda's Word Em Up Mix)