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Art Department The Drawing Board Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Canadian duo’s debut LP is a house purist’s wet dream.

Matthew Bennett 2011

In today’s dizzy dance market it’s easy to overlook, perhaps even deride house music as a relic – or worse, as simply irrelevant. But house is often (as we’ve bashfully discovered) the old faithful when it comes to trading in niche. So whilst attentions may wander, lustfully chasing such promiscuous genres as UK funky, drumstep or fidget, we have become accustomed to shamefully creeping back to this calm lover once fads have evaporated under the heat of their own hype.

Deftly conjuring this perpetual spirit are Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White, two veterans of the North American dance scene. Their position as ones to watch come the release of this debut LP was confirmed at 2010’s close, as their edgy and kinetic deep house 12" Without You was voted the track of the year by online dance authority Resident Advisor.

A few months on and the focus on this pair hasn’t abated. The Drawing Room is finally upon us and, yet again, we are forced to analyse dance culture’s cache. So how did they do? Well, they’ve kept their heads down and averted their eyes from the flirtations of trend, meaning that The Drawing Board is a house purist’s wet dream.

One of the most arresting early features of the album is Glasgow’s melancholic, wavering vocals. Immediately on Much Too Much we are drenched in soul, and not particularly happy soul either, as the old-timer injects a character that quickly dodges the sheen of yet another clichéd soulful house collection.

He even coaches Seth Troxler, something of a high-profile scene collaborator, to follow suit with his vocals on Living the Life and Vampire Nightclub – come the latter number, the tone has become darker and more dubby. Many of the tracks are sparse, stripped back to allow basslines and spacious percussion to weave their voodoo in the space. And it’s in these gaps that Art Department’s magic floats.

If you are looking for a quick musical fix, Art Department may burn too slowly for you. But if nine-minute deep house edits infected by the spirit of Larry Levan, Virgo and Basic Channel are your bag, then you’ll not be straying too far from the gaze of the mistress you call house music.

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