Amsterdam house-duo Detroit Swindle releases their debut album on March 24th. With a 13-track production full of tempo explorations and perspective Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets want to pay homage to their childhood stars.
From the car factories of industrial Detroit arose during the second half of 20th century the sounds of the future. Techno producers caught the sounds and created beat driven music and combining futuristic beats with funk and soul hooks a soulful electronic music was born. The Detroit-based artists were pioneers in this new musical landscape.
Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets have drawn a lot of inspiration from the gritty environment of 80s Detroit. Lars and Maarten met each other through techno and house and found mutual interest in Detroit inspired house. They both grew up listening to soul, disco and old school hip-hop and wanted to create “something fresh while respecting the original artist”. The name of Detroit Swindle is, according to Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets themselves, a tribute to the musical pioneers that have influenced them a lot.
Critical voices claim that the Swindles do not live up to this but benefits from their not-as-renowned American colleagues, though the word ‘swindle’ is a deliberate way of having people to know that the Amsterdam duo is not acting as if they were from Detroit. “We get a lot of bookings because we work our asses off and drop an EP every 8 weeks that a lot of people buy because they like it, not because of the name (well maybe a bit),” Lars Dales responded to a critical comment.
Detroit Swindle has this distinct sound that makes it easy to identify. The duo has been described as making contemporary interpretations of classic soul tracks with groovy melodies, jazzy chords and bumpy bass-lines, but that would be sort of a simplification. Their music has strong roots but is still detached; it is innovatory but still curtailed, all in a very postmodern fashion. It has got influences from the early 90s garage and the deeper Detroit and Chicago house but there is still something about their way of building breaks and creating rhythms, with lots of shuffle and off-grid action, that has this certain ‘Detroit Swindle’ style to it.
The debut album ‘Boxed Out’ broadens that perspective. It contains the slow grooves dashed with disco, the deep house, the Ibiza club monsters and some hip-hop jams. Mayer Hawthorne asked for a collaboration that resulted in ‘64 Ways’, a quite lame, lazy shuffle with a simple synth progression over the Americans’ silky voice. Another collaboration is with the Berlin based Sandra Amerie on vocals for the slowed down groove of ‘Center of gravity’. In this track the mixture of soul and UK garage in a Detroit house fashion might very well be containing the very spirit of Detroit Swindle’s music. In ‘Thoughts of She’ Lars and Maarten samples the vocals of Alice Russell from Quantic Soul Orchestra’s ‘Pushing On’, also in a classic Detroit Swindle manner.
‘For the Love of…’ is homage to the old school sounds of J. Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde, combining offbeat shuffles, that gritty bass line and a cut-up soul sample. The hip-hop element of the album is not very interesting or strong, but it shows how serious Lars and Maarten are about creating “something fresh” while paying tribute to the stars of their upbringing. The strongest element of the album is the gritty, dystopian sounds of Detroit in the relentless monsters of ‘He’s Just This Guy, You Know?’ and ‘Huh, What!’. They are both great dance floor tempo-pushers sprung from old school Chicago and New York house cuts from the early 90s.
Despite its weak spots the album is in my opinion an interesting and forward thinking release that presents a broader spectrum of Detroit Swindles’ music making. The album proves that they can produce great deep house, but also that they are willing to elaborate with genres with a good result. While hip-hop and other genre breaking elements have sneaked its way into many house-dominated dj-sets for quite some time, this album is another step in that direction. And I like it.
Detroit Swindle – Boxed Out album
Date: March 24th 2014
Label: Dirt Crew Recordings
02 64 Ways feat. Mayer Hawthorne
03 Me, Myself & You
04 Thoughts of She
05 Monkey Wrench
07 Center of Gravity feat. Sandra Amarie
08 For the Love of…
09 The Fat Rat
10 He’s Just This Guy, You Know?
11 Huh, What!
13 You, Me, Here, Now