steve spacek’s “songlife” brings the life-beat back
By Sound Check
February 5, 2020
History matters, if you’re gonna wanna flip it! South Londoner Steve Spacek (born: Steve White) is one of those artists who feels forever slept-on, or at least under-appreciated, even though his long career ties together pretty much every type of Black electronic music to be made since the mid-’90s. Because he was there — and he helped make it. First as a singer of the famed group Spacek, and as a producer, instrumentalist, and collaborator, working with the dub, jungle and hardcore massives of his hometown, with Dilla and the Soulquarians, with Thundercat and LA’s musical bohemians, and more recently, as Africa Hi-Tech with Mark Pritchard, making great weird bass records while living in Australia. No beat is foreign to him.
So, though the straight-up house vibes of “Songlife,” a taste off his new album Houses, may seem out of character, it isn’t at all. Not by a long shot. “This music has been a big part of my musical journey, mainly from two angles,” Steve says. “The first is, of course, the early rave scene in London and the UK in general, with all it’s early iterations. Techno from the D [i.e. Detroit], acid, (happy) hardcore, what we use to call dub-house (pre-jungle), coming into Garage and Balearic to name a few. The other angle is the music production angle: I’ve always used the basic 4/4 template as a means of being able to learn a new piece of recording equipment. Whenever I get any new beat making hardware or software, I’d always make a house beat.”
“Songlife” is a crackling version of that beat, based on a moody combination of kick-drum and big, wide melodic synth chords. Yet it doesn’t take long for Spacek’s signature oddities (a stumbling, kid-like xylophone) and an injection of dance-floor fun (a peppy, percolating bassline) to foreground the action. Hi-hat and electronic-pad patterns straight out of classic Chicago jack elevate the energy, and soon we’re out of sight and out of mind, in the space between jubilation and melancholy that, through the years, this music has made a home of. So it doesn’t matter if Steve Spacek has never made a house record before — “Songlife” sounds like he’s been living for a long time.
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