If Discogs digging isn't your thing, then Defected's collection of classic Murk tracks is only a cause for rejoicing. After all, there hasn't been a comp of Murk material since a singles collection twenty years ago when MCA bought the label's back catalogue. Since then there's been no shortage of music to collect, as the duo of Oscar G and Ralph Falcon have kept juggling a whole armada of aliases while churning out a total of seven consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard club charts. Good luck trying to keep the aliases apart—there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the list, which includes Intruder, Interceptor, Funky Green Dogs and Liberty City: they all traffic in the rugged, enormously catchy, stripped-down deep house that is the Murk signature.
To be honest, though, it is difficult to describe the Murk sound without using adjectives that could apply to a good deal of house music tracks. Perhaps that's why they've remained long-standing, slightly under-the-radar legends since their '90s heyday. You could call the sound classic, not only because it's been around forever, but because it's house music stripped down to its essence, raunchy and minimalist, robotic and abundantly sexy. Today the Murk sound comes across old-school and contemporary at the same time, as dance music trends have swung around and caught up with their productions. Their relevance also isn't limited to retromania: latest track "Amame," recorded under their resurrected Intruder guise, recently caught fire at the hands of Troxler, Ricardo and Dennis Ferrer. On House Masters, "Amame" squarely holds its own with tracks recorded a quarter-century earlier.
One thing that's certain to strike you is that Murk have an unparalleled skill for hooky vocals, ones you can hear a million times, often turned into tribal-like chanting, like on the iconic Liberty City tune "Some Lovin." Between the melodic vocal hooks, strident toms and big ol' 909 hats, you will find….not that much: the third key component of a Murk track after drums and vocals is a resolutely minimal synthesizer palette. Very rarely do you get anything like a riff or chords underscoring the vocals, instead you find a tech-y landscape of bleeps, siren honks and squiggles, often rounded off, and, well, murky-sounding. Combined with stomping percussion, these dusky electronics reveal something of a dark edge underlying the bikinis and champagne clichés of Miami: while Murk have always made unabashed party music, they've consistently kept one foot in the shadows, throwing in creepy noises and tough-as-nails house drums when it suits them.
House Masters doesn't pretend to be exhaustive—missing here, for example, are key remixes from the '90s that the duo did for Madonna, Debbie Harry, RuPaul and The Pet Shop Boys. And while two of Murk's biggest hits, "Fired Up!" and "The Way," recorded as Funky Green Dogs, are also omitted, their absence is arguably a strength: both are big, late '90s dance-pop crossover tracks that would have come across as dated when placed next to the deepness and weirdness that holds sway on this comp.