Pumping house tracks from a versatile New Yorker.
The production on The NYC Dance Project has a raw, upfront style that recalls the DIY vibe of the earliest house records. That's a big part of why it rules. The album centers on three similarly named tracks, "This Version May Save Lives," "This Version May Heal" and "This Version May Go Off." They all draw from the one source that never seems to get old: First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder." You might think that there's nothing to be gleaned from a track that feels like it's been sampled countless times, but Stevens' rushing strings and drums makes those vocal snippets—"I got something for your mind, your body and your soul"—feel exhilarating once more.
If Stevens is conversant with house music history, he also seems to be in dialogue with himself. Take "This Version May Heal"—this feverish filter house cut features a piano line that complements the vocal lead in the preceding track, "I Miss Your Love." Here, he works with the building blocks of house music and assembles them in different configurations, from vocal-heavy tracks to instrumental stunners like the synthy closer, "The Concept," which shows off some of the more ethereal vibes of his other work. Every tune is an attempt at making the perfect house floor filler, each coming from a different angle.
What The NYC Dance Project lacks in novelty it makes up for in sheer force of will. Stevens has proven he can produce almost any kind of dance music, but it's the focus on house that makes The NYC Dance Project stand out. On his stellar collaborative EP with fellow New Yorker AceMo, released last month, Stevens made classic house and jungle seem shiny and new. The NYC Dance Project is, on the other hand, is good house music made with a faithful touch and an irreverent streak.