Steven Tang: Disconnect to Connect (Smallville)
Steven Tang’s debut album for Smallville combines an obvious love of Chicago jack with Detroit techno. It has all of the smoothness one might hope for based on the latter, but with a decidedly spacey slant. The album is tight on the details, with plenty of punch to keep warm bodies moving. These are tracks that would work just as well on a dancefloor as they do in the home studio or on headphones. But I think this music is best suited for a night time drive, each track lean and streamlined with nary a detail out of place. Every time I hear the smooth chords of the title track, I can’t help but want the saxophone from 808 State’s “Pacific” to chime in on cue; mind you, that’s a good thing, and the track is wonderful in its own right even. “Heat Burst” is full-on Chicago jack, all 909 and 303, no nonsense. With the exception of the downtempo respite of “It’s Perceived As Sound,” most of the album is dancefloor-ready, particularly spacey jams like “Sunspot” and “Some Solace,” or the acid-tinged bite of “Heat Burst.” Tang even manages to fool me into thinking “Eternal” is a dance track, even though it has no kick or bassline — but it has all the inertia of a track made to keep your body moving. The whole thing goes down smooth, coming down from the main set with the almost beatless, airy finale “Brink of Dawn,” the perfect counterpart to chillout opener “Interstice,” and ideal for watching the sun come up. While it’s not particularly original, Tang’s love of this dance music of yore come through loud and clear; fans of vintage Detroit artists like Carl Craig will surely enjoy this album, solid from start to finish.