DELROY EDWARDS: AFTERSHOCK
When Delroy Edwards burst onto the scene in 2012, North American underground dance music was about to change. Edwards’ first single “4 Club Use Only” helped establish Ron Morelli’s Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.) label as the forerunner of a movement that re-examined the sounds of house and techno through the lens of hardcore punk and noise. But soon a new generation of DJs and producers began to embrace dance music on its own terms, giving rise to today’s underground scene. While many of his contemporaries pursued club-friendly directions, Edwards has taken a more experimental path, making damaged synth-punk and mutant electro in his signature lo-fi style. After a series of releases on his own L.A. Club Resource label, Edwards returned to L.I.E.S. for the 14-track LP Aftershock. Sonically, Edwards’ latest sounds like it crawled from the same swamp as 2016’s Hanging at the Beach and 2018’s Rio Grande, but where those records flirted with a range of genres, the majority of Aftershock is pure house. Specifically, these tracks harken back to the early days of house, when the sound had yet to be codified and Chicago teens were twisting consumer synths into weird and wild forms. In both the composition and production techniques of Aftershock, there is a homespun aesthetic that makes the music feel rooted in a different era. With percussive workouts like “Defcon 5” and “Swingin The Bitch,” Edwards recalls Farley Jackmaster Funk and other Trax mainstays, while on the barebones “Beats,” the vocal chop references Jamie Principle’s Chicago house anthem, “Your Love.” However, Aftershock is at its best on songs like “Killer Charlie” and “MMT8 Jam,” when Edwards lets the melodies run free. So much contemporary dance music is quantized to perfection, but the synths here have a hand-played quality that makes them sound refreshingly expressive. Despite the obvious nods to early club culture, Aftershock isn’t exactly uplifting. The same sense of foreboding that permeated Edwards’ last two LPs hangs heavily here. But that murky atmosphere functions to bind these tracks together, and makes even Edwards’ most minimal beats speak volumes.