- Faith, the debut album from Melvin Oliphant III, AKA Traxx, can be taken as strong evidence for Phillip Sherburne's recent observation that electronic music nowadays can be characterized not by grand new advancements but instead by historically-directed re-evaluations. The result, Sherburne goes on to say, isn't the production of mere kitsch, but the honing of musical skills, the refinement of creative processes and the development of more nuanced and complex approaches. Faith fits squarely into this scene, being a full-on dive into first-wave Chicago house that expresses its love for tradition as it seeks to re-make and re-model the contours of this tradition in its own image.
So if you're not in the mood for some retro house action you might want to keep walking. Faith is so chock full of classic-house signifiers, it's basically a de facto style guide. Even Melvin's nom de plume is classicist, an index for Chicago's legendary Trax records, which rightly bills itself as the "original home of house music." But what do you expect really from a release called "Traxx - Faith" on Nation records? You might as well as complain that Eric Clapton solos too much.
None of this has been lost on Traxx himself, it seems, as he's buttressed himself against critical appraisal from the outset, opening the album by saying of his music that "the point is that when you try and describe it, sometimes that feeling is lost. It's like when you're looking at a painting and try and describe it...you'd rather just be absorbed in it, melt into it…" "House is a feeling," Oliphant seems to say, "so don't get after me for my old-schoolisms." The effectiveness of criticism, however, relies on an exactly opposite belief, namely that sometimes by describing music, not only can it be understood better, it can be felt better too. The relationship between mind and body is a two-way street, and thinking about sensations and the things that produce them, like music, can directly affect how sensation works.
But the man's got a point too, you don't really need to reflect on the jams gathered here. Their wholesale embrace of jackin'-style beats ensures immediate physical effect. The fact that "jack" refers here to a sound and a body movement reminds you how electronic dance music is a kind of sonic computer program for the body, communicating through pulses and vibrations, sending the body information about how to move according to speed, rhythm and intensity.
In Traxx's case his traditionalism means that he speaks to the body through historically-appropriate hardware: Faith is marked by a rough-edged, primitive sound, with somewhat saturated mixes, pummeling splatters of double-time hi-hat, punchy synths and ghostly lo-fi vocals, and claps that burst like machine-gun rounds. There's real excitement at work here, as if Oliphant's only just discovered his acolyte-like devotion to the house music revolution and is prepared to celebrate. Above all, the rugged, ecstatic rhythms of the anthemic "Down 2 House" is proof that this is a man who believes. Like any faith, though, there's not much ground for debate—either you're a skeptic or you're ready to join the choir. Just make sure and show up Saturday night instead of Sunday morning.
02. Violet Epoch
03. Parametric Melody
04. A Heart Alone
05. Cosmic ZigZag
06. Down 2 House
07. My Soul feat. Nancy Fortune
09. Body Control
10. XTC for Love feat. James T Cotton
11. Outro Essence