Fans of ‘sophisticated house’ will rally to it; others will find it all froth and...
Paul Sullivan 2007
Following the release of his celebrated Nude Dimensions Vol. 1 CD in 1999 – a mix still regarded as one of Naked Music’s most distinguished releases – California house don, Miguel Migs (a.k.a. Petalpusher), has achieved a modicum of global fame with his soulful, sparkling DJ sets and slew of classy productions and remixes.
Having played in a reggae band in his pre-house days, Migs knows his way around a few instruments, and it’s this inherent musicality, combined with his love of four-to-the-floor grooves and disco, jazz, funk, hip hop and reggae, that makes up his instantly identifiable ‘gossamer house’ sound.
Those Things, which arrives four years after his highly successful debut album Colourful You, doesn’t adapt his formulas overly much, featuring all his trademark flourishes: deep house beats, subtle wah-wah riffs, coruscating synths, soulful vocals and a highly polished production ethic.
The shuffling “So Far”, featuring LT (a.k.a. Blue Six vocalist Aya), is a suitably insouciant opener; “Make Things Happen” - featuring long-time cohort Lisa Shaw – is a more assertive rub, all thrusting brass, extra percussion and well-placed electronic bleeps. Canadian vocalist Tim Fuller puts in a sterling performance on the soulful “Can’t Get Through”; the title cut (featuring Lisa Shaw) possesses equal amounts of sass and sway.
Yet several tracks in and the silky, accessible ambience – diluted further by fairly nondescript ‘house-by-numbers’ songs like “Mesmerized” - begins to feel awfully samey. Perhaps realizing this, Migs changes the vibe with the off-kilter rhythms and disco stabs of “Let Me Be,” a reggae-inspired track (“Fire,” featuring Junior Reid) and a hip-house cut, “Shake It Up,” with vocals by Brand Nubian’s Sadat X.
But whilst immaculately constructed, these songs suffer from the very same aura of superficiality that can sometimes plague Migs’ productions. The reggae is all groove and no grit; the hip hop all bounce, no bombast. And here is the heart of the problem: while such bowdlerized beats are great to bop your head to or play at a trendy cocktail party, Those Things is an album that ultimately minds its p’s and q’s and doesn’t like to get its hands dirty.
Fans of ‘sophisticated house’ will rally to it; others will find it all froth and no substance.