Theo Parrish, Parallel Dimensions

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Minimal house producers generally seek to mimic silicon chips (their smallness, their futurism), but Theo Parrish takes a holistic approach. Under the broad umbrellas of minimal and house, he synthesizes nature, the history of rhythm, the cityscapes of Detroit and Chicago and the plastic through which he processes his music, and tethers his expansive vision to no paradigm.

Genre-bending minimalism.

Initially pressed to 1,000 dub plates in Y2K on his own Sound Signature label, Parallel Dimensions was re-released in 2004 thanks to Parrish's legendary status as a producer and DJ. It's an early example of his fine ear, a gorgeous assemblage of technology and earthly delights where even his space-ghost sounds sound sprouted from the sands whence they came. With a subtle and painstaking hand, Parrish nestles echoes of dub, jazz melodies, African drum patterns and harmonies (the terrific "Serengeti Echoes"), in a quiet build, delicately blanketing house's 4/4 dogma with finger-snapping, mouth-clicking polyrhythms.

Parallel Dimensions

Theo Parrish

Parrish is very much in his own mind, composing from his soul, but leaving audio shrines to those folks who made it possible for him to be here tonight. On the breathy "Summertime Is Here," he alludes to the diva vocals of deep house; a woman sings lyrics from Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," craning and siren-like, as though she were memorializing a ghost of a feeling. As she stretches her vocals, she coaxes out a wistful chorus of saxophones, followed by handsnaps, high-hat and a muted bass thump; underneath, a cluster of tones on the piano and very slight, funky bass riff haunt its undertone. It's all so muted as to be impressions or imprints. Mid-track, the melodies take center stage and the rhythm decrescendos before they switch again, making mesmerizing patterns that are as amorphous as their roots.

Parrish is a master of subtlety, and Parallel Dimensions hides in many nooks and crannys — brass-section back-choruses, almost-inaudible delays, counter-rhythms that sounds like shoesteps in the rain. But while he understates and illustrates, the funk he pops is as impacting as any smack-yr-head-on-the-subwoofer Detroit & Chicago techno tracks. So intricately crafted it compelled DJ Language to compare Parrish to Thelonious Monk, Parallel Language's sound-menagerie is truly music without borders.