Mark Farina lives in that House. Probably because he’s from Chicago. And in so doing he exemplifies a strand of dance music that those of us who don’t live in the US often forget even exists in the Ableton age. That being, of course, the stuff that used to get called ‘deep’ before we had Henrik Schwarz and before Larry Heard emerged from his bunker. It’s got chunky basslines, ‘jazzy’ sounds and believes that hip hop never happened.
House of Om is Farina’s most recent mix for Om Records. It’s covered with endorsements about how ‘legendary’ Farina is. This is certainly true – dude has put in the hours. And back in the day his sets were great, a very different fusion of West Coast and Chicago sensibilities. However he has been doing this for a time now, so I was hoping to see a new wrinkle on his sound here.
I was disappointed. This is Farina-by-numbers.
Of course you can’t fault this on its own terms. It’s danceable – all the tracks move along apace, and have that catchiness that works in bars and in particular on drunk people that don’t really intend to dance that night but end up doing it anyway. It’s neatly sequenced and mixed. Farina is a pro and knows his material and his audience very well.
But, oh boy, I can’t bring myself to love it. These sounds are just so old. The people I imagine dancing to it are old too. It just conjures up drunken office workers trying to dance sexily. It feels like this mix could have come out any time this century and sounded exactly the same. And in today’s context this kind of music can’t help but sound impossibly dated.
Indeed it’s also virtually impossible to pick out any of the songs, because they all use the same (familiar) techniques and tropes. They all sound the same! (I swore I’d never say this). Thick bass – check, ‘pumping’ rhythm – check, spoken lyrics – check.
There are a lot of people who love this sound, but not I suspect for its cutting-edge qualities. It’s a free world (go USA!) but this is one red-white-and-blue export I’ll pass on.