Analog Aquarium isn't likely to prevent further flare-ups of the debate that Rick Wilhite unwittingly sparked with his RA interview last year. The veteran producer's album quite easily plays to both arguments of the analog vs. digital scrum, featuring that loose, for-the-heads kind of construction that warms the cockles of the former, and the shabby kind of execution that winds up the latter. Aquarium doesn't argue a Luddite's agenda, though. While there are the requisite ghosts in the machineïlike when the volume of bare-bones drum track "Cosmic Soup" inexplicably shoots up around the 20-second markrWilhite is less preoccupied with glorifying (authentic? antiquated?) modes of production than he is with demonstrating how they help to liberate his musical taste.
Some of the diversity of Aquarium is also due to the residue of collaboration, Wilhite's modus operandi of choice throughout his discography. Here the Marcellus Pittman co-production "Dark Walking" quivers with its woozy strings, absent beats and low-end distortion. And when Wilhite emerges from the filter fog of "Blame It on the Boogie," he is bookended by Theo Parrish and Osunlade and led by Billy Love, who succeed in creating an excellent example of soulful vocal house, without it ever becoming "soulful vocal house."
Although Aquarium is Wilhite's long awaited debut, the album becomes something of a breakout role for Love, a vocalist who has worked the same kind of well-mannered circuit as Peven Everett, and who absolutely soars once Wilhite cuts him loose from the sheen of studio polish. The pair had teamed up previously on "City Bar Dancing," which makes a welcome reprise here via a rework that sheds a handful of BPMs and tantalises by scuffing and stretching out Love's phrasing. "In the Rain," probably the album's roughest cut, consists of little more than a disco loop, microphone feedback and Love freestyling about heartbreak and rainfall, but it still swoops with joy despite the punishing high frequency sounds. "Muzic Gonna Save the World" is something else entirely, a basement-dwelling creature with Love, Sonny B and Wilhite himself almost imperceptible as they talk, sing, "ow-ow-ow" and generally clown around with mouth sounds behind heavy waves of reverb, as fists thumps on walls, tambourines endlessly shimmy and brittle strings loop upwards.
Despite all of its charms, Aquarium still leaves you feeling none the wiser about Wilhite's real identity as a producer, as he eludes pigeonholing even in his solo productions. While "Sunshine" begins as gauzy and melancholic, it does an about face at some point, ending as brisk, compressed techno. And while the Latin shuffle of "Deep Horizons" skims the surface with teflon hi-hats and rolling cymbals, how it relates to the deep outer space of "Cosmic Jungle" is something for Wilhite to know and the rest of us to guess.
Buy Rick Wilhite - Analog Aquarium at
Tracklist: Rick Wilhite - Analog Aquarium 01. Blame It on the Boogie
02. Dark Walking
03. Muzic Gonna Save the World Pt. 1
04. Sunshine Pt. 2
05. City Bar Dancing (Basement Mix)
06. Deep Horizons
07. In the Rain
08. Cosmic Jungle
09. Cosmic Soup
10. Muzic Gonna Save the World Pt. 2
Other Still Music reviews