A mysterious record arrives packed with gems.
In what might be the most famous dance music interview ever, Moodymann told RBMA's Benji B in 2015, "So if promoters want to bring me to their spot, I'm there to share my environment. Not to give you a part of your own. Because there's a million people out there that can play music that can really hype your club or their club, but again, I'm the wrong person for that. But what I will do is share my environment and what is going on in Detroit, and that's what I am charging for."
Moodyman's recent releases have flipped this concept. You actually have to go to Detroit and enter his environment to get them. The Detroit house legend has been handing out free copies of an unreleased album in-person, while Sinner was only sold at the BBQ and various Detroit shops prior to its digital release. In this age of social media oversharing and a constant deluge of streams, Moodymann remains elusive. He might be a regular presence on the international festival circuit, but his new music still feels, improbably, like a secret.
Sinner is a full-length double-pack featuring three new tracks, a live version of "I Got Werk" (from Moodymann's 2014 full-length) and both cuts off last year's Pitch Black City Reunion 12-inch. (The title track off that EP appears here as "Downtown.") Despite the odds-and-ends nature of this release (there's only about 25 minutes of new music), it should still satisfy fans waiting to see if and when a new LP will emerge.
Moodymann doesn't really do interviews—he says his bit on his records. On Sinner, he's more comfortable than ever in the frontman position. On "I'll Provide," he sighs, "I don't even know what you need… but I'll provide" over a distorted synth loop and a thumping house beat. Even within the context of fairly banging house tracks like "I Think Of Saturday," he makes room for a snippet of Joe Simon's wistful "With You In Mind," before hopping back on the mic and decrying the workdays in favor of the weekend. Elsewhere, the classic Moodymann elements are intact. "If I Gave You My Love" starts off with Camille Yarbrough's Fatboy Slim-sampled "Take Yo' Praise" before blossoming into a couple of gospel organ chords, warm, panning Rhodes and a disco bassline. Like the best Moodymann material, these tracks feel exultant, but also a little sad.
Moodymann makes party music on his own terms. "Deeper Shadow" splits the difference between a slow dance floor jam and a doleful R&B lament, while the live version of "I Got Werk" sees him diving back into "Sloppy Cosmic"'s Funkadelic-informed combination of psych rock and soul—the track is slathered in scorching guitar, a nod to the likes of Eddie Hazel and Dennis Coffey.
Listening to "I Got Werk (Live)," Moodymann's singular appeal snaps into focus. He makes urban, cosmic, American music. A single, casual vocal track from Moodymann can have more character than most other producers' entire discographies. It's no wonder people are scrambling to find a backyard party where he might be playing or selling a new record. It's a chance to participate in modern-day mythology.