Ron Trent presents WARM - What Do The Stars Say To You

  • Ron Trent taps Gigi Masin, Khruangbin and Jean-Luc Ponty for an album of deep, relaxing grooves that sparkle with expert musicianship.
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  • Ron Trent recently told Bandcamp Daily, "I don't really want to talk about house music." That seems fair given that he's devoted most of his life to it and that his new record has nothing to do with clubs or dance floors. The Prescription Records cofounder, alongside Chez Damier, delivered some of the most foundational house tracks of the '90s, including "Morning Factory" and "I Feel The Rhythm." And, before that, even an accidental Detroit techno anthem called "Altered States," which Trent wrote at the age of 14 and released on Armando's Warehouse Records three years later, in 1990. But Trent's remit has always extended beyond four-to-the-floor body movers. His wide-ranging tastes were instilled in him young, through his father, who was a record pool director in the late '70s (the means by which record companies sent their new releases direct to DJs to be played in clubs). He tends to embrace house music in the purest, loosest sense of the term, following the example set by the likes of Frankie Knuckles at Chicago's seminal Warehouse nightclub, where Trent was among the patrons who heard disco, soul, funk, new wave and pop tracks bent and sculpted into thrilling forms and sequences. Trent's latest undertaking, WARM, has been germinating for years but came to fruition—like so many other shelved projects—during the early days of the pandemic. The resulting record appropriately evokes a tropical breeze and acts as a soothing balm for the ears. Every element of every track has been precisely measured, balanced, polished and smoothed, first mixed and engineered by Trent, then mastered by New York house don François Kevorkian (who also contributes a continuous 15-track mix). The album, designed to be performed by a band in a live setting, shows Trent's fondness for music from the early '80s, when "people were getting used to using synthesizers, so you have this element of almost alien technology meeting organic analogue feelings," as he told RA in 2020. "When you hear sounds [from a synthesizer] being used on a human level, an organic level, an analogue level, it creates this other thing that I don't think people have been able to put their finger on exactly. It's the mixture of heaven and earth." Trent, who became proficient on guitar during lockdown, plays that instrument as well as keys, synths and percussion throughout, proving himself more than ready for the producer-to-band musician pivot. A diverse bunch of artists long admired by Trent give some extra seasoning to this diverse but adjacent range of easy listening styles—quiet storm, Balearic, krautrock, yacht rock and bossa nova, among other sounds. His collaborators share his penchant for warm, welcoming music. The 79-year-old French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty adds romantic strings to "Sphere"'s confection of hazy low end, guitars, synths and percussion, while Texan psych-rockers Khruangbin's sultry bass and prickly guitars feature on album highlight "Flos Potentia." (Spanish for "flower power." Trent subtitles the track "Sugar, Cotton, Tobacco" in reference to the plants that drove the slave trade.) Ivan Conti of Brazilian jazz-funk trio Azymuth plays live drums on the opener, "Cool Water," while Lars Bartkuhn adds humanizing handclaps that allow the track to transcend tasteful Muzak. Alex Malheiros' earthy, soulful bass grounds the dreamy atmospherics and major keys of "Melt Into You," while the oceanic motifs of Italian ambient artist Gigi Masin shine on "Admira," with a funky bass throughline that is definitely Trent's. "Flowers", the only track with full vocals, features Venecia, who complements her mellifluous voice with sweet notes played on the koto, a stringed traditional Japanese instrument. These tracks run into each other like cream into coffee, making Kevorkian’s mixed version, while highly enjoyable, not strictly necessary (though the four bonus tracks are lovely and incorporated seamlessly). At a time when many artists are doing away with albums altogether, Trent leans into the format, with the cover art suggesting the ideal listening experience: in one sitting, from start to finish, through quality speakers and, should you be so lucky, with a dusky cityscape to contemplate as the music massages away the stresses of the day. Trent has named the pastel tones and filmic sensibility of Miami Vice as an influence, but What Do The Stars Say To You could easily soundtrack something darker and sexier, like The White Lotus, the 2021 HBO series that lampoons privileged guests at a Hawaiian resort. There have been clues all along that this is the kind of album Trent's been yearning to make. Photos of his Chicago studio show him surrounded by records whose influences can be heard here (Jean-Luc Ponty, Jon Hassell, Jean-Michel Jarre), and Trent has parlayed his passion for architecture into designing sound systems for venues, most recently for the kind of audiophile bars so suited to enjoying this album in. Music as medicine has always been Trent's MO. On Prescription Records and beyond, he delivered deep house rhythms designed for dance floor healing. The WARM project is a more relaxing, immersive experience, offering respite not through movement, but through standing still. Created at a time when travel was basically impossible, What Do The Stars Say To You is about slowing down and appreciating the here and now. Who needs to jump on a plane when you can take a restorative trip from the comfort of your lounge room?
  • Tracklist
      01. Cool Water feat. Ivan Conti (Azymuth) and Lars Bartkuhn 02. Cycle Of Many 03. Admira feat. Gigi Masin 04. Flowers feat. Venecia 05. Melt Into You feat. Alex Malheiros (Azymuth) 06. Flos Potentia (Sugar, Cotton, Tabacco) feat. Khruangbin 07. Sphere feat. Jean-Luc Ponty 08. WARM 09. On My Way Home 10. What Do The Stars Say To You