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  • Filed under: Review
  • 03/16/2012

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Tevo Howard Monument EP

In recent years, Chicago producer Tevo Howard has been something of a machine, reliably turning out a new batch of high-quality house productions every few months. On his latest offering, the Monument EP, he even sounds like a machine, albeit in the best way possible. The three-track effort finds Howard crafting workmanlike house tunes that carry some real emotional heft—not to mention some dancefloor punch—despite their stripped-down nature.

Kicking off the EP is the title track, a propulsive number that rides along a skeleton of vintage drum-machine percussion. The song's undercarriage may hint at classic Chicago house, but it's not a retro piece. The rhythms are detailed and multilayered, peppering the listener with a dizzying, yet satisfying, array of clicks, clacks, and claps. Enhancing that effect is Howard's use of tiny synth stabs, which he arranges and employs as another percussive element. The notes and pitch of these bleeps and bloops are constantly shifting, which adds a sense of melody and keeps things from growing stale over the track's six-and-a-half-minute runtime, but they also thicken up the song's overall groove. It's an impressive technique, and one that allows the tune's actual melody, a relaxed, almost Balearic synth line, to casually bounce along in the background.

As strong as "Monument" is, the EP's other two selections are anything but forgettable b-sides. "Conditional Love" again takes cues from old-school Chicago, but also uses a shuffling snare pattern and some acid squelch, which gives the track's rhythm a sort of brawny crunch. Set against another airy, almost tropical synth melody, the song offers an interesting sonic juxtaposition. Even more acid can be found on "The Wind of the World," a track that largely ditches the classic drum-machine sounds while doubling down on the tweaky acid bits in the low end. Clocking in at more than seven minutes, it's the longest tune on the EP and the one that offers the biggest journey, as Howard builds a sonic narrative while repeatedly shifting the song's focus between the track's drums, bassline, and synth melody. In a way, it makes sense, as "The Wind of the World" is a pretty lofty title, and the song is undoubtedly the EP's most ambitious effort. Fortunately for all involved, it's a trip worth taking, and one that ends the Monument EP on an undeniable high note.

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